Face in the Crowd: Arooga’s Grille House

Local Restaurateur Manages Burgeoning Enterprise

By Scott Campbell

Some of the most fulfilled people are those who cannot wait to get up in the morning and go to work. His energy level and enthusiasm identify Gary Huether, Jr. as one in that enviable group. The 36-year-old Camp Hill man is president and co-founder of Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar. He oversees 10 corporate-owned locations as well as several franchises throughout the New England and the Mid-Atlantic countryside. His partner is Mike Murphy, who deals with the real-estate and finance side of the business.

“Our nearby locations include three in Harrisburg,” says Huether, “and one each in Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Shippensburg, Hanover, Hershey, York and Lancaster. All of them were existing buildings that we retrofitted. Outside of Pennsylvania, we’ve sold nearly 100 franchises, our first deal signed with the Mohegan Tribe for 15 units, whose first location opened in March 2015 next to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Others are currently under construction in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.”

The corporation’s ultimate goal is to have Arooga’s sites nationwide. But its base of operations will remain in the Capital City. In April, new headquarters were occupied on S. 19th St.

“It was a challenge to get a place where everything could be under one roof,” says Huether. “It took us a year and a half to find it. Now we have a 25,000-square-foot facility that accommodates offices, storage, a commissary and a full test kitchen and restaurant. Our new franchise owners are given a four-week training program at the site, after which we lend a further six weeks of assistance at their locations.”

Huether entered this earthly realm in Baltimore, but his family soon moved to Mechanicsburg. While still at Trinity High School, he began working at Sierra Madre. He went to Harrisburg Area Community College and briefly attended Penn State Harrisburg before moving on to purchase a Snap-On Tool franchise in Annapolis, Md.

“I grew it into two routes, then sold them and bought three in Harrisburg,” says Huether. “I eventually sold them as well and co-founded Arooga’s in 2008.”

A comprehensive and quality menu is not the forte of most sports bars. Arooga’s is a purposeful exception.

“Dining is our priority,” says Huether. “Except for our quinoa and brown rice blend, pasta and ribs, all of our food is cooked to order. There is only one microwave oven in many of our kitchens. We use organic ingredients. Our soups are made according to our proprietary recipes with no additives or preservatives. Wagyu Kobe burgers are made from range-fed cattle. And we’ve added vegetarian selections. We use real fruit purées and juices in our mixed drinks. We’re constantly looking for better food products.”

Arooga’s is distinctive in other ways. In 2008, it was the first certified green restaurant in Pennsylvania for its exemplary energy management. No Styrofoam is used, fryer oil is recycled into bio-diesel fuel, chemicals are eco-friendly and hot-air hand dyers are installed in restrooms. Solar applications loom on the horizon.

The corporation’s community activities include Running for Rachel, a fundraiser for cancer research in partnership with the Hershey Bears.

“In four years, we have raised over $20,000, including $8,500 this year,” says Huether.

Other Arooga’s beneficiaries are Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area, Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition and the Feel Your Boobies Foundation.

Beyond his daily responsibilities, Huether enjoys cooking, movies, rooting for the Indianapolis Colts and travel. The latter is often combined with business trips to destinations like Las Vegas and Chicago.

This article appears in the June 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine