Parsons is still ripe with opportunity


Walter Plank founded Plank’s Café on Parsons Avenue in 1939 in answer to Prohibition’s end and the Great Depression’s enduring woes. It fast became a bustling community watering hole, selling hundreds of tobacco pouches and beer pints each day. Today the cozy saloon-turned-family-style-pizzeria is run by Walter’s grandsons Tom and John Plank—at least one of whom is at the restaurant at all hours. Here Tom discusses how the family business and neighborhood have changed over 70 years, and why Plank’s is still happy to call Parsons Avenue home.

Q: Why did your grandfather open Plank’s Cafe?

A: Walter saw an opportunity to bring people what they needed after Prohibition, and he jumped on it. We’ve done the same thing with the business since he passed in 1960 and our father [NAME?] died in 1993—evolving it from a bar to a family-oriented restaurant serving home-cooked pizza and specials like roast beef and navy bean soup. Being here is about more than eating and drinking. People come to savor the experience, from the old swivel bar stools to the diverse mix of people.

Q: What role does Plank’s play in the Parsons community?

A: This is “everyone’s restaurant.” Nationwide Insurance’s former CEO Jerry Jurgenson comes in, sits at the bar, and talks to anyone who sits next to him—characters of all kinds. Young people come to hang out, families come from the suburbs to watch OSU football games, night-shift Nationwide Children’s Hospital employees show up for a beer and pizza at 7 am. Sometimes we get a call that OSU President Gordon Gee or Coach Jim Tressel is on the way in. We gulp and say, “We’ll be here.” Our door’s open to anyone, any time.

Q: How does Plank’s give back to the area? 

A: Our father taught us that giving often leads to even more receiving. We like to show support to the local community by doing simple things—like offering Nationwide Children’s Hospital employees a 10 percent discount every day, or giving back 15 percent of proceeds to the hospital for any party they book here.

Q: Why has Plank’s remained here for so long?

A: This is where we’ve belonged for more than 70 years. And the area’s just getting better. We want people to know about the positive momentum on Parsons. So much is improving with the investments that have already been made—especially by Nationwide Children’s Hospital—and the interest in the area that’s growing by the day.

Q: So, what’s the secret to your award-winning pizza?

A: It’s got a sweet flavor to it. A few people don’t like that about it—but most people love it. It has won awards, but we’re not really concerned with that. We’re plenty busy here serving cold beer and cooking good food.

Brian Higgins