High school graduation is the beginning of a new life chapter, a time to start figuring out which life path you are going to take. For three LHS alumni, their paths brought them back home to Lebanon. Meet the three graduates from the LHS Class of 2003 who are making positive impacts in the community, nearly 20 years after graduation:
Lindsay Mescher is the owner of Greenhouse Café + Bar and the newly opened Revival Coffeehouse + Kitchen.
Ross O’Rourke is the owner of O’Rourke Building Company that is building the new housing development, 42 Flats, on Columbus Ave.
Lauren Barnes is the owner of the newly opened Slightly North on Broadway, which houses Glad Rags Boutique and a salon.
Tell us about growing up here. What was it like growing up in the Lebanon community?
LINDSAY: I recall growing up in Lebanon being a lot of fun. It seemed like there was always something to do; a festival in town and the Warren County Fair, or hiking around the trails and swimming at the YMCA. In the winter months, we were always sledding and getting into snowball fights! You always ran into friends wherever you went; at the store, in the cafes, everywhere!
ROSS: Growing up in Lebanon was amazing. We were close enough to Kenwood and Cincinnati to get to know the modern world, but also close enough to Oregonia to totally escape from society! I remember going on “’Gonies” in high school. That meant loading the car with your best friends, and then driving to Oregonia to either have a bonfire, jump into the river from rope swings, or both. I feel like this level of freedom fostered a sense of independence in me from a young age. I was also a bit of a wild kid – had a hard time following the rules! But I seemed to straighten out okay!
LAUREN: Growing up here was wonderful! Lebanon is a tight-knit community, very supportive of the schools and youth.
What was your experience at Lebanon High School? Did you all know each other at school?
LINDSAY: I really liked high school! I was way more interested in the social aspect of it than the educational side, which I’m not the most proud of, but I feel like I made the most of it. I remember Lauren (Fry) Barnes well and had many classes together and shared a lot of friends. Over the years, we have become closer and I love being a downtown business owner with her! Ross O’Rourke and I were friends beginning in middle school and our little brothers were really close. I can recall a few times getting into trouble in science class because we would be goofing off – always trying to make our fellow classmates laugh and just having a good time even when we should have been focusing on our studies!
LAUREN: I have very happy memories of growing up here and attending LHS! I was active in student council and FBLA. I attended every sporting event to support my friends. I looked forward to Friday night football games and hanging out with my friends after! Many of the relationships made here are some of the most important in my life. I have lifelong friendships that mean so much to me. I grew up with both Ross and Lindsay, and I can remember being with them from childhood all the way to graduating!
What did you do after graduating from Lebanon High School?
LINDSAY: After graduating from LHS, I went to work for the Warren County Airport as the assistant FBO manager here in Lebanon and continued to work there for nearly five years until I finished my degree in Audio Video Production from Southern Ohio College, and I worked on the weekends as an assistant recording engineer for one of my professor’s music companies. After earning my AVP degree, I went on to earn another degree in Music Business with a minor in Entrepreneurship from Full Sail University. I moved to Covington, KY in 2008 to be closer to the Cincinnati music scene so I could build my network. Soon after, I moved to Nashville, TN and accepted a job at the Roy Orbison Estate (where I met my life and business partner, Brad) and worked my way up to director of Operations and Music Publishing. Five years later, I accepted the position as director of Music Finance and Publishing for New West Records, one of the largest independent record labels in the music industry.
ROSS: When I graduated in 2003, I immediately joined the United States Marines, as an infantryman, where I was sent to partake in one of the largest offensive assaults in modern U.S. history – Fallujah, Iraq. I am so thankful to have come back alive, and in good spirits! I then started my first business: a government contracting company that built and maintained systems for the CIA and Intelligence Community. I grew that company and sold it in 2020.
LAUREN: After graduating, I attended EKU only to return to Cincinnati and attend Aveda Fredric’s Institute. I lived in the Oakley/ Hyde Park area for six years before returning to Lebanon to settle down and start a family.
Why did you decide to return to Lebanon and start a business?
LINDSAY: I always came home to visit family and friends, and always felt close to Lebanon. I lost my brother in a work-related accident and wanted to move home and be close to my family and to be here when his daughter was born. It was really important to me to have a close relationship to my niece, as well as my younger brothers and to be with my mom and sister-in-law during this difficult time. I decided that if I was leaving my life in Nashville, that I was going to take the opportunity to start my own organic café, a dream I had planning for over 10 years. My long-term boyfriend, Brad moved here with me and encouraged me to open my own café. So, in 2019, we opened Greenhouse Cafe on East Mulberry Street.
ROSS: After selling my company, I was drawn to the concept of Conscious Capitalism. This means that we are in business to make money, but we can also serve mankind in a positive way at the same time. For me, business is not all about profit; it also must make me feel something. I want to feel like I’m doing something good. My heart pulled me back to my roots, to develop much-needed, quality housing in Lebanon, with the 42 Flats development on Columbus Avenue.
LAUREN: I have stated this several times; Lebanon was the only place I wanted to establish my businesses. The community support for small business is amazing and the personal connections made with so many people in town is a big part of the reason they thrive!
What does it mean to you to be investing in the community in which you grew up in?
LINDSAY: It is a very special feeling to create a place that our community loves to be! I cannot describe how much it means when you’re told just how much people appreciate what you are doing, and Lebanon certainly makes us feel appreciated. Because of the nature of our food and drink, one-third of our customers come from outside of Lebanon and we feel so lucky to help bring a demand to Downtown Lebanon. I’ve had a few customers tell me that they moved to town after regularly visiting Greenhouse and getting to experience Lebanon and learn that it would be a great town for their family! It makes us feel so proud to represent Lebanon in that way.
We receive so much support from the other businesses, especially Bill and the team from The Golden Lamb and Black Horse Tavern who are always looking out for us. It never feels like a competition with our fellow restaurants/cafes, but instead we are all in this together and that really says a lot about our town. In April 2022, we opened our second café, Revival Coffeehouse and look forward to all that lies ahead.
ROSS: Building a business in Lebanon makes me feel like I’m returning home. Spending time in Lebanon fulfills me in such a deep way. I’ve connected with old friends and I’ve even found ways to work with friends who are also business-owners in the area, such as Johnny Silcox, with Silcox Concrete Construction, or the Crockett family with Crockett’s Tree Service, or Adrian Fee with American Roofing Systems…. I went to school with all of these people, and it feels good to build something of quality together. I am also so happy to see how Lebanon has improved! Mulberry Street and downtown isn’t so “dead” anymore – it’s beautiful and thriving. Also, the Broadway developments are beautiful!
LAUREN: It’s amazing! I love living and raising my family here. We were participating in the Merchant Trick-or-Treat in downtown this past fall and my husband said “this town is like something out of a movie” and I couldn’t agree more! It’s a really special small town and a great place to raise your children and run a business in. I love being from here, living here and supporting all things Lebanon.
Anything else you'd like us to know?
ROSS: After living in Washington D.C. and Miami, FL, I realized how good it is to grow-up and live an easier life in a smaller city. Easy parking, friendly community, and family-centered values. I am so happy to be spending more time in Lebanon again.
Thank you to Lindsay, Ross and Lauren for taking the time to speak with us, and for reinvesting in the Lebanon community!