Although the Village Inn restaurant had been in the same location on for 31 years, people always seemed to miss it, according to owner Jim Walker.
Despite being located on the major thoroughfare that connects Clearwater with Tampa, motorists would pass by hundreds of times without really noticing the place, he said.
That lack of recognition caused Walker and his brother, Paul, to move their eatery one mile down the road, to the opposite side U.S. 19, where new developments and businesses are springing up and patrons are flowing in.
“We had been down the street for 31 years, but when the lease was up, we started looking for a bigger space closer to where all the action is,” Jim Walker explained. “We hope to keep our current guests while introducing ourselves to the many businesses and people in this area.”
New Restaurant Features Upgrades
With the move came a change of style for the restaurant known not only for its famous pies and home-style meals, but also its drab, dated décor.
A refresh of the interior, complete with flat screen TVs, comfortable furniture and an appealing color scheme, brought the restaurant into the 21st century, a move that is planned for many of the franchise’s more than 200 nationwide locations, according to Walker.
The Walkers, who own 10 Village Inns, including five in Hillsborough County, also added new fixtures, painted the exterior, added new signage and dropped the ceiling in the dining room, creating a more cozy and inviting atmosphere.
“We pretty much gave the place a big facelift,” Walker said of the building, which has been home to a number of diners, clubs and restaurants over the years. “It’s kind of modern retro, like a '50s diner with a modern look.”
Customers Embracing the Changes
So far, the reception to the relocation and the changes has been extremely positive, Walker said.
In addition to keeping much of the existing customer base, many new diners are checking the place out for the first time thanks to its new, highly visible location.
“I had never been to a Village Inn before. I always thought they were kind of dumpy,” Largo resident Beth McCarthy confessed after finishing lunch with her girlfriends. “But the food was good, the service was wonderful, and the prices were great, too. I’ll definitely come back.”
Address: 2525 Gulf to Bay Blvd.
Hours: 6 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 24 hours Friday-Saturday