Salem restaurant Mac and Bob’s was named the small business of the year Tuesday night by the Roanoke Regional Chamber and the Regional Small Business Development Center.

The Main Street mainstay, owned by Bob Rotanz and Joe Dishaw, has been in business for nearly four decades, opening in 1980 with just 10 bar stools, according to a chamber news release.

Mac and Bob’s quickly grew and moved down the street to its current location six months later. Rotanz and Dishaw spent the next 26 years expanding the restaurant, reaching its current 330-person capacity in 2006 while making the transition from a pizza and sandwich shop to a full-service eatery, the chamber said.

“The Small Business Awards selection committee was impressed by the growth Mac and Bob’s has experienced and the restaurant’s ability to overcome adversity, including four recessions,” chamber president and CEO Joyce Waugh said.

The adversity also included a 2018 lawsuit against the restaurant that started with two servers who alleged they’d been unlawfully required to share their tips with dishwashers. The Fair Labor Standards Act complaint grew to a class of 109 servers and bartenders, who received a total of about $128,000 in back pay and refunds.

Mac and Bob’s filed for bankruptcy in an effort to save the business from even higher costs. The restaurant also went public with its troubles, prompting donations of more than $147,000.

“It shows the vulnerabilities that small businesses face,” Waugh said of the lawsuit. Although the award was based on many factors, Waugh said the incident showed how Mac and Bob’s “was so responsive to the community.”

The award was presented Tuesday night at a ceremony that drew more than 400 people to the Taubman Museum of Art.

Other winners were:

  • Small business veteran of the year: Leslie and Chris Mason, Valley Cryotherapy
  • Business-to-business services: B2C Enterprises
  • Business-to-consumer services: Mac and Bob’s Restaurant
  • Health and wellness: Virginia Autism and Behavior Consulting
  • Tourism and hospitality: Tour Roanoke
  • Wholesale/retail: Fleet Feet Roanoke
  • Best new small business: Total You Health
  • Legacy award (in business for 50-plus years): Medeco Security Locks
  • Not-for-profit organization of the year: Bradley Free Clinic
  • Micro business: Arara Language Solutions

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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