‘Andy’s always been there’

Andy Rogers parks his red Toyota 4Runner in the “No parking/loading zone” outside the Nashville House and makes his way across the street to the Professional Building.

He takes the elevator up to the second-floor conference room.

Rogers calls it one of his offices.

Hanging on the wall are two paintings he received during his time in Nashville — from whom, he cannot remember.

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One is of Indiana University in Bloomington. The other, a Bloomington rock quarry.

Rogers is not an artist himself, but he said he believes art is a crucial part of Nashville.

“Art is a rewarding operation here,” he said.

Rogers was friends with legendary photographer Frank Hohenberger and famous bird artist William “Bill” Zimmerman.

“I have appreciation for Zimmerman. He’s an outstanding one, because he was so into the birds. Hohenberger provided an insight into the characters that were here,” Rogers said of the two.

“I wasn’t an artist. I’m not good at that, so I had to encourage people to bring that facet to Brown County,” he said.

Both artists contributed to the feel of Brown County, he said.

“We are more of a feeling than we are looking and touching,” Rogers said.

“To understand Brown County, you have to feel it.”

Rogers’ contribution is to business in Nashville and Brown County.

It’s in his blood.

His father, Andrew Jackson Rogers, bought the Nashville House restaurant in 1927 with Fred Bates Johnson. It caught fire in 1943 and burned to the ground.

Jack Rogers rebuilt the restaurant, and, in 1959, his son took over the family business.

And it grew along with the town of Nashville.

As more people visited, Rogers addressed the need for hotels and restaurants.

He bought the Brown County Inn from an “outfit” in Cincinnati; he built the Seasons Hotel and Conference Center; he bought The Ordinary restaurant and remodeled it.

He ran The Ordinary restaurant for about 20 years, then sold it. Out of the Ordinary restaurant and bar opened there in the spring of 2013.

Not only does Rogers supply the town of Nashville with food and lodging, he also provides space for shopkeepers.

Approximately 20 shop owners rent space in various buildings Rogers owns, including the Bartley and Mathis houses in town.

Rogers also has built three banks in Nashville, including the building that now houses First Merchants Bank.

He used to own the Brown County Playhouse.

“I gave that up. The university tried to give it to me, and I wasn’t prepared for that, so I gave it up,” he said.

Currently, Rogers owns the Seasons Lodge, the Nashville House and the Brown County Inn, along with his retail locations.

On March 19, he received a key to Nashville from the town council.

“Collectively, we could have enough people who have done good things for Nashville, Brown County, as long as my arm, but every list has a No. 1, and I think Andy Rogers is No. 1,” council President Buzz King said.

Not one to brag about his accomplishments, Rogers said receiving the key — the sixth in the history of the award — felt “pretty good.”

“It was nice to get some recognition down the road,” he said.

Caring for employees

When you walk into the Nashville House, you will be greeted most likely by people who have worked for Andy Rogers for at least 20 years.

How does a employer manage to keep employees for that long? The answer is simple: Rogers cares about them.

Kathi Smith has worked off and on at the Nashville House since 1986.

“I couldn’t ask for anybody better to work for. … If he wasn’t here, I probably wouldn’t be here,” she said. “He is compassionate. A lot of people don’t know that. I’d do anything for him.”

Sue Followell has worked for Rogers for more than 40 years at the Nashville House. She started in July 1971.

At the beginning, she was “deathly afraid” of Rogers, but that soon changed.

“I told him one day, ‘I think of you as my father.’ That’s how much I appreciate him,” she said. “To me, he is just a father figure, because I lost my father, and Andy’s always been there.”

Rogers is also a boss his employees can come to in a time of need.

“If you have a problem, he is the type of person that you can go to. He’ll sit down with you and discuss it,” Followell said.

Wilma Allender started working at the Nashville House in 1973 during Memorial Day weekend. She, too, has worked off and on at the restaurant since then.

Allender describes Rogers as honest and fair.

“He wants to always hear and weigh out all the sides of whatever the issue might be or what our needs are, and if our needs are something that is important enough to warrant ordering them or getting them,” she said.

“I always had great respect for whatever he asked for as an employee.”

Rogers does care for his employees, but he expects the best, he said.

“Another thing that I do is I expect them to perform in their area. They do all the work. I don’t do a lot of the work, but I do have people who are responsible to do the work and are knowledgeable and capable,” he said. “If I tried to do all the work myself, I couldn’t get it done.”

He said he knows that caring for his employees is what keeps them around for 40 years.

“I care for them. I care for the town. I care for the county. I care for lots of things, and I’ll do what I’ll do,” Rogers said. “… But they have to be responsible.”

Bruce Embry has managed a parking lot Rogers owns for at least 20 years.

“He’s a humanitarian. He cares about people and things. He keeps up on what’s going on in town, too,” Embry said of Rogers.

“He’s done so much, you can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, because he doesn’t want to advertise or brag about what he does or how he’s done it.”

Lessons learned

The No. 1 lesson Rogers has learned after being in business for more than 50 years is how to deal with people — “not only people that work for you, but people that come to you for your services,” he said.

But dealing with people is not always easy.

“A little feller came in and attacked me one time at the front desk at the Nashville House,” he remembers. “I grabbed him by his head and took him out(side).”

“You have customers; then you have customers.”

What would be Rogers’ advice to a new businessman?

Think about the people in your town.

“We have a lot of people who come and go,” he said. “I hired a lot of people. I’ve had people work for me for 35 and 40 years. A lot of them have been here for a long time. We have to recognize, what are their needs? … We have to adjust ourselves to them and their abilities to contribute to the efforts of the county.”

It is all about respect.

“Respect them and their abilities — or lack of them — to get along,” he said. “They contribute. They have to. But you have to have respect for them.”

Contributing to the community is something Rogers strongly believes in, whether it be in schools, in local government or another organization, he said.

“If you don’t, then No. 1, you don’t have the understanding that’s necessary for you to do the job,” he said.

This includes business owners.

“If you are an owner here, you have to contribute to the success,” he said. “You have to provide goods and services that are needed. You have to have an understanding of what people need to survive here.”

Rogers has served on too many town and county boards to count.

“I accomplished quite a bit in my time in Nashville, serving on my own boards and these other boards. I have contributed to their growth and prosperity,” he said. “(But) times have changed.”

And the needs are changing, too.

“Don’t forget that through the years, we have grown in population, and we also have grown in what people’s needs and wants are. A lot of that’s changed,” he said. “It’s not the simplistic thing that we had back in the ‘30s when we started the state park business. Those needs were met, but times have changed, so new needs need to be met.”

This change in needs has led to a decrease in demand for Nashville’s small-town, countryside appeal, Rogers said.

“We’ve somewhat grown out of that. We need to bring some of that back … some understanding of what the countryside has to offer, what nature has to offer,” he said.

Nowadays, Rogers may occasionally appear at a meeting or two to express a concern he might have, “but that’s all,” he said.

“I’ve done my duty.”