July 21, 2022
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
The complete version of this story appears in the July 21, 2022 print edition of The Brillion News.
BRILLION – A lot of people have told Randy Ryoti that his Randy’s Central restaurant in downtown Brillion is like the hit 1980s sitcom “Cheers.”
“There’s some truth to it,” Ryoti says.
Since Oct. 14, 1993, Randy’s Central on Jackson Street in the heart of downtown was a comfortable place where everyone knew each other’s name. Ryoti, and his wife Sharon, will serve the restaurant’s final meals between now and July 30.
An unnamed buyer has purchased the building, which Ryoti purchased just shy of 30 years ago, after its first life as a United States Post Office.
Ryoti, 79, is now saying a bittersweet goodbye.
“I thought it was an interesting building and there was nothing for the youth to do, so I opened it up as an arcade and it was called Lion’s Den. That was kind of a play on words because it was the Brillion Lions, but I’m a Detroit Lions fan so I put that in there and nobody picked up on it, and it did very well,” Ryoti said.
Soon after, Ryoti sold pizza by the slice to Brillion students.
“It evolved into the pizza business,” Ryoti said.
Ryoti says he would not have made it without his staff or his wife, Sharon, who has been involved with the restaurant for nearly the last decade.
Ryoti doesn’t look his age but will turn 80 in December.
“If I was 69, I would never consider selling. I have waited for the development of Brillion to grow and now it’s starting and I’m going ‘I don’t want to leave.’ My body is saying get out,” Ryoti said. “My heart says yay and my head says yay, but my soul says nay. I’ve had some health problems. I’m having heart surgery in Minneapolis the week after I sell … and I’ve had cancer, I’ve had diabetes, I’ve had back surgery. Anybody that’s 79, you don’t get here without some pieces falling apart and by the time you get here, ah, I’m here now. I’m grateful that I’m still healthy. I have some problems that I think can be corrected.”
Part of Ryoti’s reluctant feelings toward selling has been the development of the city. He believes the city is moving in a positive direction.
“If I come back here downtown Brillion 10 years from now, I won’t recognize it, and it’s been some influential leaders and getting the right people in place. It’s not just one person, it takes a whole city to change, and change isn’t easy,” Ryoti said.
By the time Ryoti opened his restaurant business at 50-years old, he already had stories to tell because he was always willing to change. He was born in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, served the country, ran three photography studios, photographed weddings, worked for a TV studio, moved to the area and worked at Ariens Company and what is now Cobblestone Creek. He admittedly “can’t stand the big city” and is proud of his Finnish background, and his belief that you must have ‘sisu,’ a Finnish word.
“Basically, the quickest translation is ‘no guts, no glory.’ If you don’t go for it, you ain’t going to get it. So, when you’re jumping for it, go as far as you can and when you go through life or in a business, you have to have sisu, and those that are advancing, you wonder why that person’s doing so well, they have a lot of sisu,” Ryoti said.