John Presley slides into a booth at his Office Pub and Deli after tidying up a few things in the kitchen before the lunch rush begins. While members of his staff place rolled silverware on the bar, he talks of the iconic Comanche Trail establishment in a little strip mall on the edge of the Indian Hills neighborhood.
On April 20, the OPB celebrates its 40th year. Nearing his 73rd birthday in July, Presley says he spends 15-16 hours there six days a week as he has across the last 40 years — but has no immediate plans for retiring.
“I don’t have a wife, so I guess you could say I’m ‘married’ to this place,” he says, laughing.
The Office Pub and Deli is a popular place for regulars to gather and watch University of Kentucky basketball games. On game days or nights, every table and bar stool is taken — and all are reserved. “The same people are in the same places for each game.”
Presley ticks off the names of notables from politicians to sports figures who have been — or are — regulars at his restaurant. The list reads like a “Who’s Who.” He has letters and mementos that many have shared with him displayed on a wall at the entrance.
Presley counts among his customers former UK basketball coaches Joe B. Hall and Tubby Smith, who used to come with longtime equipment manager Bill Keightley. They are joined by a list of governors.
How about the name?
Presley opened the business with popular raised-bed gardener Wayne Parrish in a building owned by one of Parrish’s relatives. He says Parrish knew more about cooking than he did.
Here’s how the business got its name.
“A bunch of guys were hanging around talking about names. (The late) Dewey Reeves suggested calling it simply The Office. Dewey said that way he could tell his wife (the late Dorothy) he was at ‘the office.’ It stuck and we added the ‘pub and deli’ part.”
In addition to the public restaurant and bar area that seat 100 guests, the banquet room seats an additional 90 and is the home to at least two of Frankfort’s service clubs, Optimist and Kiwanis. It’s also the site of numerous social gatherings.
Presley owes his success to a loyal clientele. He says he’s now serving the grandkids of some of his first customers.
“I like to have my customers feel like this is their home away from home. We offer good service in a friendly atmosphere and treat everyone the same.”
After serving in Vietnam, Presley was in the trucking business for a few years, “jumped around and did a lot. I started here when I was 33. I’ve been blessed with good health.”
What about retiring?
While he says he’s had several offers to purchase the business, if he ever sells, he wants it to go to someone who would continue his legacy. “I’ve spent most of my working years here and I’m particular who I sell it to!”
Presley said the late Dr. E.S. Kimbel, a longtime Frankfort physician, gave him a piece of advice that resonates when he thinks of closing.
“Dr. Kimbel told me: ‘Don’t stop; you’ve got to keep doing something.’
“So when I think of stopping I think of what he said. Good advice.”
The kitchen at the Office Pub and Deli, 614 Comanche Trail, is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 10 on Friday and Saturday. The lounge stays open later each evening. OPB is closed on Sundays.