Gold Star Chili opens in Versailles

Wanda English Burnett

The official ribbon cutting for Gold Star Chili in Versailles was held Monday, March 21 as a crowd gathered for the VIP event.

Partners Marc Rulli and Dave Mayerik, welcomed those attending, with Mayerik saying, “This is a dream come true for me.” Rulli first thanked Sandy Pickett, who had the initial idea for the restaurant, then Scott and Cindi Neal, who own the strip mall named Neal-Weir Plaza.

The Versailles franchise of Gold Star Chili began as a dream for Sandy Pickett of Versailles, and grew to the finished product it is today with the help of many dedicated people. Pickett’s partner at Meisberger Real Estate, Mary Beth Castner, told the Osgood Journal that Pickett was successful in selling the properties where houses once stood and getting the ball rolling to make the land ready for a business - a fast food business. “She (Pickett) put out the invitation to many fast food places,” Castner noted. Gold Star Chili responded and with the help of the Neals who purchased the property and turned it into a strip mall, was able to proceed with construction.

There was a 1865 brick house sitting on the property where Gold Star Chili now sits. Neal explained that a brick wall inside the restaurant is made with bricks from that original house preserving history while looking to the future. Also, large foundation stones are in place around the landscape of the plaza and were also taken from the foundation of the brick house. The building was designed by the Neals. Travis Neal was the project manager for the three-unit building.

While it has taken a little longer than those involved anticipated, they are excited that the day has finally come. Pending documentation that is promised to be in place by March 22 - the newest restaurant in Versailles will be open at 10:00 a.m. today.

The word was official at the 2009 Versailles Pumpkin Show in September that a Gold Star Chili was coming to Versailles. It seemed appropriate timing for the Rullis since Marc’s wife, Kristi (French) Rulli had been crowned the 1992 Versailles Pumpkin Show Queen. Readers watched the newspaper where it was first announced and called asking when it would be coming. “It’s been a long road,” noted Rulli.

That long road came to an end and ultimately a beginning on Monday when the VIP event was held showcasing the menu which includes everything from all types of chili selections to double decker sandwiches piled high with roast beef, turkey, ham, and bacon. The menu also includes a variety of desserts including premium ice cream shakes.

The warm atmosphere on the inside of the restaurant that seats 90 plus, is inviting with some of the highlights being a large wall mural, brick center wall with a television, with seating to your liking - booths or tables. It also boasts outdoor patio dining for the summer months.

Gold Star Chili commissioned nationally known artist, C.F. Payne to visually tell the Gold Star/Cincinnati-style chili story. He captured it beautifully with a one-of-a kind mural that includes one of the owner's children. The Rulli children, Alessa, Jacob and Dominic, are on the mural. Jacob’s likeness dons the front of the menus at the Versailles restaurant. The panoramic mural shows kids having their first cheese coney, teenagers on a first date, family night, and veterans craving a taste of home.

C.F. Payne is best known for his portraits of the famous and powerful and for his cover illustrations for publications such as Time, Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, The New York Times Book Review, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is recognized by many as “the Norman Rockwell of his generation.” He is a Cincinnati native, who is a life-long lover of Cincinnati-style chili. “C.F. Payne was the natural choice for a project like this for the brand that is known as The Flavor of Cincinnati,” noted Charlie Howard, Gold Star Chili director of marketing. He further noted that the famous artist's illustrations also depict everyday people, the kind of regular, hard-working individuals and families who have been Gold Star’s core customers for the past 45 years. He said the illustration is “really a tribute to them.”

At night, the business is illuminated with the mural being clearly visible.

The owners of Gold Star Chili in Versailles are very community oriented. They believe that if you take, you have to give back. That’s their style of ownership displaying a desire to become a part of the community they now have ownership in.

“Marc and Dave are truly an asset for the community,” noted Neal at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday.

Neal told the Osgood Journal that contracts have been signed for a Pizza Hut Express and George’s Family Pharmacy, which will fill the three unit complex located between Washington and Main streets across from UCB on US 50 in Versailles. The three businesses should employ about 50 people when they’re all in place. The first of April is a targeted date for the pizza business and pharmacy to open.

Above Scott and Cindi Neal, along with owners of Gold Star Chili Dave Mayerik and Marc Rulli, prepare to cut the ribbon for the official opening of the restaurant in Versailles. Left photo: from left: Mary Beth Castner, Betty Castner, of Meisberger Real Estate; Isabel Richmond, Sandy Pickett, Meisberger Real Estate, and the person who got the ball rolling for the project that brought the business to the area; and her daughter, Pam Pickett.