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Friday, February 1, 2013

The REAL Jeff Ruby (Part III)

Jeff Ruby getting makeup done for his upcoming reality show with one of his signature Ruby-brand cigars. No details have been released yet, but be sure to check back on for that and other Ruby updates. 

Jeff Ruby ran away at 15 years old. He had no father in his life. His mother wasn't interested in being a mother to him, so he packed up and moved on. He spent one night in the local YMCA, then checked in to a simple apartment-type sleeping quarters under the name Larry Brockton.

Why Larry Brockton?

"My mother was like a CIA agent when she was trying to track down her husbands who went missing," said Ruby. "She had a knack for finding them. When I had run away, I saw a Brockton St and I just picked Larry out of the air. Larry Brockton."

Enter Jeep Bednarik. The brother of Hall of Fame Philadelphia Eagle and NCAA Defensive Player of the Year Award namesake, Chuck Bednarik, took it upon himself to mentor a young Ruby. "He made Mike Ditka look like Mr. Rogers," Ruby said of Bednarik.  

Ruby was living on his own in New Jersey. Getting straight A's. Undefeated in wrestling. Captain of his football team. Living by himself and working. No doubt 99 out of 100 kids would fail in that situation. Couple Ruby's determination to succeed with Bednarik's mentoring relationship and you can now come to some conclusion why that 15-year old runaway now has one of the most successful steakhouses in the world.

"He looked after me. Let me know what it meant to be a man. Made me feel good about myself. That's why I do what I do now. I get so much more making these kids feel good about themselves," said Ruby. 

The Boomerang Effect

In The REAL Jeff Ruby (which is his Twitter handle) Part I and Part II I delved into his relationship with some of his Highlands' Tribesmen. These are kids who look up to Ruby for a number of reasons: his entrepreneurial spirit, his inspirational quotes, his real-world experience or for some, they look up to him as a father figure like Ruby looked up to Bednarik. 

Ruby's intentions are not self-serving. I think it's almost an homage to Bednarik. He calls it the "boomerang effect."

From his Twitter account @TheRealJeffRuby. Ruby sums up "The Boomerang Effect:

Highlands Sophomore, Griffin Urlage has a unique relationship with Ruby. "I have a great relationship with Mr. Ruby. It's so good I sometimes call him Dad," said Griffin. "I wasn't really able to have a relationship with my real dad as he passed when I was 14 months old. Mr. Ruby just really stepped into my brother's life before mine. We just fell in love with the man since that day. He's become a father to me."

So what's it like to have him in his life?

"It's the greatest feeling in the world (to have Jeff Ruby as a pseudo-father-type)," said Griffin. "It's like knowing the man that owns the city of Cincinnati. It's great."

Griffin's two older brothers, Jake and Nick also went to Highlands and talked about their relationship with Ruby.

Jake Urlage, now 24, played football with Ruby's son Dillon at Highlands. "It means a lot to us having a father figure. It's great that he does (for us) what any father would do with their own."

Ruby almost gets misty eyed when he talks about his relationship with these kids. You can tell that he truly cares about how they are being brought up. He does his best and steps in when he can. Twitter paves the way to help him do that. 


When I started researching Ruby for the article series I took to Twitter. Inevitably I came across multiple inspirational quotes. Some were very similar to one another, almost repeats with maybe just one word changed or phrases rearranged. When he writes his quotes on Twitter, I almost imagine a writer sitting at his desk painstakingly agonizing over a sentence. He simply improves his "Rubyisms" over time.

"They are all 100% original. I don't know a computer from a commuter, but all my sayings are my own. I put them on Twitter to try to help or inspire my followers," Ruby said.

A Jeff Rubyism. He loves his work. 

Another example of a Rubyism from @TheRealJeffRuby on Twitter.

He's had years of experience to craft these Rubyisms. Take the first example about passion and fulfillment. That's real-life experience showing through. You know him now as upper-echelon steak restaurateur. But he was in the 7th grade at Ocean Grove Elementary when Ruby got some of his first experience running and operating a successful food operation.

"I was working for free in my mother and Sidney Goldstein's restaurant. At lunch I'd go home and make myself an Italian sub. Salami, Capocola (which he pronounces like Tony Soprano; "gobbo-goul"), Provolone. When I brought it back to eat it at school, my friends all wanted one. So the next day I made some and brought them to school. I sold them for $.65. Our school lunches were $.35, so I was making a little money."

Long story short, the principal called Ruby in. The lunch ladies weren't happy that he was peeling off some of their business. He was told to stop.

As Ruby remembers it though, "I walked into the principal's office and when I came out, I was still allowed to sell my sandwiches."

Passion. Self confidence. Believing in yourself. That's what these Rubyisms bring to the kids that follow him in Twitter and in life.

Beau Hoge, also a Sophomore at Highlands, also details his tutelage under Ruby and follows him on Twitter. "He and my dad (ESPN football analyst and ex-Steeler Merril Hoge) have been good friends for a while, so I've known him since I was about 11. I knew about his restaurants and a general idea of who Jeff Ruby was, but I had no clue about his background and what a great guy he was. He seemed a little intimidating the first time I met him but he is a great guy and just  likes to have fun."

Beau went on, "Knowing him through Griffin, he's now my Uncle Jeff and takes me under his wing when my dad is working. It's cool how he takes time out to talk to guys like me. It means  alot that he cares what we have to say. He's a great leader and respect is important to him. He always reminds us to listen to our parents, which I find cool."

How to Save a Life

Perhaps the most important thing Jeff Ruby has done on Twitter involved a young man, troubled, without a real purpose in life. His twitter avatar, according to Ruby, had him in "saggy pants, smoking a cigarette and on a skateboard."

Jared had been using drugs for the majority of his adolescent and entire adult life. According to him, "At first because I thought it was cool and that graduated into me using them just to feel okay with myself."

After his obligatory "welcome" tweet to Jared after he followed him, a few back-and-forth tweets, Jared asked him what it would take to work for him at one of his restaurants.

"He immediately came out of himself and began asking me about my life and my background which I thought was pretty awesome considering he probably had a million other things that were going on in his life that he could be worrying about," said Jared. "He told me to call him and eventually I had the courage to do so. We talked briefly and he set up a lunch meeting for me to meet with his director of training and his daughter Britney."  

Ruby picked him up in his jet black Cadillac Escalade, took him on a few errands, and personally brought him to interview with his son, Brandon at The Precinct for a Server's Assistant position. 

"The job meant a lot to me and I thought it was just what I needed to pull myself out of the slump that I had dug myself into and I tried but was just not able to stop using," Jared said. 

As he glanced up, remembering the conversation like it was yesterday, Ruby's icy blue eyes focused in during our interview, "He admitted to having a drug problem. He needed help and so we called his dad together. He cried his eyes out and so did I. I talked to his dad on the phone. I told him that he'd have his job back when he finished getting help. His past wasn't clean, but his future could be spotless. "It was important to me to keep that job open for him. I knew it could help save his life."

Jared remembers the day when it became apparent that his job performance was suffering because of his drug problem, "Mr. Ruby saw that I was not living up to my full potential and called me outside. He knew something was wrong and strongly guided me towards a decision that has completely saved my life."

With the help of his family, Jared left his job at The Precinct to get the help he needed to save his life. He checked into "The Healing Place" in Louisville- a homeless shelter equipped with a treatment program for alcoholics and drug addicts.

"It was a very humbling experience and has allowed me to look back on my life and learn from those mistakes, as well as learn from the mistakes of others who have gone through this struggle for many years without finding a solution," said Jared. "This experience has also brought me closer to my wonderful family who has done nothing but support me in every positive decision I have made since day one."

Say the name Jeff Ruby and it'll no doubt conjure up images of steaks, wine, cigars, Italian suits. When he got onto Twitter last March, the last thing he thought he'd do was save a life. 

"I like cigars. I like creamed spinach. I like my car. I love my employees," said Ruby. "I love them like family."

"Mr. Ruby and Brandon (his son and GM at The Precinct) have promised me another chance when I return home and it amazes me that I ever even got a first chance and blew it," said Jared. "I have not seen him since the day I left The Precinct but am looking forward to thanking him personally for helping to guide me to a better life where I don't have to lean on drugs or other external things to make me happy."

Jared's Twitter avatar isn't a kid with saggy pants, smoking a cigarette and on a skateboard anymore. It's him , cleanly shaven, wry smile, proudly boasting his Precinct uniform. 

Jeff Ruby may not know a commuter from a computer, but the man gets how to use Twitter. 


  1. You saved the best for last, Mark. Probably the best article I have read on this web site. Certainly worthy of higher media authorities as well. Well done.

  2. Well written and insightful. A side of Ruby that most of us don't know. Thank you!!

  3. Wow. What a good guy. I had no idea. I LOVE HIM even more now. Good job Ft. Thomas Matters.

    This should be in the Enquirer.

  4. Who knew? When did you interview him?

  5. Jeff, does that Collier guy write for anyplace else other than Ft. Thomas Matters? Just searched the story and can't find him anywhere else.

    Nice read.

  6. Pay back, pay it forward. Cliches for most, but the man with the Ted Gregory 'gar doesn't need to impress anybody with cliches, he just walks the WWJD walk, without regard for how he will be regarded. Refreshing to see the genuine article in action as kids I have known most of their lives are compelled to know how to be a man by Mr Ruby's example. Prost!