It was 1990 when Scott Bruce Elias Sr. decided to pack up his family and move them from Atlanta back to Richmond.
His plan was to take a gamble and open a restaurant in Innsbrook, a sprawling community that was still in its infancy at the time.
West Broad Street was a two-lane road in 1990, Short Pump was pastures and much of the area around Innsbrook was considered to be the Richmond sticks – good for hunting, fishing and taking the scenic, albeit slow, route back to Charlottesville.
Elias’ son, Scott Elias Jr., said his father showed no trepidation in taking the risk.
“There was nothing out here, I mean nothing,” Elias Jr. recalled. “But when he saw the plans for Innsbrook he saw the potential of the location and opened the restaurant. He saw what it would become.”
In November 1991, Elias Sr. opened Boychik’s Deli, one of the first restaurants to establish itself at the West Broad Street entrance of the sprawling office park.
Nearly 25 years later, with his deli firmly planted as an Innsbrook mainstay, Scott Elias Sr. died Sept. 30 at the age of 65 after fighting cancer. He is survived by his wife Becky; sons Elias Jr., Johnny Elias, and Sam Elias; and daughters Jessie, Punkie and Joanie Elias; eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Boychik’s is now managed by Johnny and Elias Jr. and they said their father made clear that the restaurant shouldn’t miss a beat.
“We all worked the Sunday before his burial,” Johnny said. “He always said, ‘Even if I die, don’t you dare close the restaurant’…we honored his wishes. It seemed like a fitting tribute because we know he was here with us.”
Building Boychik’s’ success wasn’t easy at first.
The restaurant didn’t turn a profit the first two years it was in business – a result of its location in what was then the outskirts of town.
But continued growth of the area, and rave reviews about Boychik’s Matzah Ball soup, changed all of that by 1993, Elias Jr. said.
“Customers found us and the business began to take in more income,” he said. “(Elias Sr.) stayed the course and he reaped the benefits from taking a risk early on…it worked out.”
For the next two decades Elias Sr. would work hard to build his business’ reputation in the community. The father of six worked Monday through Sunday, and on holidays, to provide for his family and take care of his customers.
“He was a family man that truly cared about everyone that came through our doors,” Elias Jr. said. “It’s what kept people coming back to our restaurant for years and years. My dad was a fighter and a hard worker…he loved coming to Boychik’s because he loved to work.”
A New York native, Elias Sr. moved to Richmond with his family in the mid-1960s when he was 13. He graduated from Henrico’s John Randolph Tucker High School in 1969, and would later attend VCU.
But his love for the nightlife and restaurant industry grew while in college, and after two years at VCU, Elias Sr. left school and founded and operated two nightclubs in the mid-’70s: Poor Boys and Playpen.
“That’s where he got his start,” Elias Jr. said. “He learned from that experience before starting out in restaurants.”
Elias Sr. eventually quit the nightclub business – packing up his family and moving them down south to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he operated a restaurant called Glasshouse Café and sold children’s clothes at the city’s Swap Shop Flea Market.
“He used to have us model the clothes,” Jessie Elias laughed with her twin sister Joanie Wednesday morning at Boychik’s. “There was this big carousel in the Swap Shop, and me and my sister always wanted to ride it, but we had to wait because we had to model the clothes.”
After a stint in Fort Lauderdale, Elias Sr. moved his family to work at a restaurant in Atlanta in the late ’80s before returning to Richmond in 1990 to open Boychik’s.
Don’t expect too many changes at Boychik’s now that the Elias siblings are in charge.
“The model my father built for Boychik’s is great and doesn’t need a lot of changes or adjustments,” Johnny said. “We may do some advertising and offer more catering services, but we’re not looking to expand. What we have is doing just fine.
“We’ve had customers that have been with us for 10 to 15 years. About 80 to 90 percent of the people that come in on Sundays are regulars.”
Johnny, 25, who left his full-time job with local insurance giant Markel this week, will manage Boychik’s with his brother Scott.
“I spent a lot of time with him being the youngest,” Johnny said of his father. “I learned a lot about him, and he taught me a lot about myself. He was a good father, and coming back to work here full-time is something we talked about long before his passing.”
Along with his legacy of customer service and hard work, Elias Jr. said what they will mostly miss about their father is his sense of humor, and willingness to sacrifice it all for his family.
“He was a selfless and caring father, who was never afraid to tell it like it is,” said Joanie. “All the way to the end, it was his love of family and love for working that kept him going everyday…and it’s keeping us going, too.”