The city was thinking about tearing it down, but Doug Cavanaugh saw possibilities in the old bait and tackle shop that sat out at the end of the Balboa Pier.
Bucking advice from relatives in the restaurant business, Cavanaugh and partner Ralph Kosmides converted the old structure into a '40s-style malt shop with a gleaming, streamlined, modern look.
Ruby's, named after Cavanaugh's mom, opened on Dec. 9, 1982.
An almost instant success, the first Ruby's (now there are 14, with more due to open early next year) helped kick off the ongoing craze in retro-look diners.
To mark the restaurant's 10th anniversary, Ruby's will hold a carnival-style celebration on the pier Sunday, with 80% of the proceeds going to the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation for its drive to raise money for a new public library in Fashion Island.
During the event, a 17-piece big band will play on top of the restaurant. A portion of the pier will be closed off and dressed up with game booths and popcorn and cotton candy carts. Roaming entertainers will include clowns, mimes and magicians. And, of course, there will be Ruby's hamburgers, hot dogs and other offerings.
A single ticket price will cover all games, prizes, food and entertainment. Ruby's spokeswoman Jennifer Gracey said organizers expect a crowd of about 1,000.
Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition. What: Ruby's 10th anniversary carnival.
When: Sunday, Dec. 6, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Balboa Pier.
Whereabouts: Take the Newport (55) Freeway south until it ends and continue onto Newport Boulevard. Follow that as it turns into Balboa Boulevard. Turn right on Main Street and park in the lot.
Wherewithal: $50 for a family of four (two adults and two children under 12). Additional tickets are $20 and tickets for additional children under 12 are $7.50.
Where to call: (714) 548-3131.