DADE CITY—Village Inn owner Bill Christie had hoped to remain open through the Memorial Day weekend. But when the freezer broke down and food started spoiling, he locked the doors for good on May 26.
"We've had declining sales with the down economy," Christie said. "But this is the worst year ever. By mid-March, when the snowbirds went home, it became drastic."
Christie, 68, and his sons Curt, 44, and Jeff, 42, have operated the Dade City and Zephyrhills Village Inns for 15 years. The Christies are holding onto the Zephyrhills Village Inn. "It's not doing as good as it could be," Christie said. "But we have enough to keep going."
Christie bemoans the most difficult part — laying off 25 employees.
"Some of them have been with us since the beginning," he said. "Curt is helping operate the Zephyrhills store, and Jeff is out with fellow employees looking for (job) openings."
Christie, his wife, Pam, and their sons moved cross country in 1997 to become Village Inn franchisees. They were working for Village Inn in Arizona when the Pasco County franchises became available. This week they're moving restaurant equipment and supplies 10 miles south on U.S. 301 to Zephyrhills.
APEC Realty is working to secure another tenant.
Retired local veterinarian Richard Smalley missed last week's regular Village Inn breakfast with his church men's group.
"I heard they cleared up the dishes," Smalley said. "And then started packing up. After our group left, they locked the door. I'm glad that gift cards are still good in Zephyrhills."
A sign was posted May 26 asking employees to pick up their checks in Zephyrhills.
On a brighter note, former Village Inn cooks and wait staff may apply for work at Kickin Wings, a Hudson chain that is progressing toward opening downtown. Kickin Wings is renovating the 3,000-square-foot Seventh Street/Howard Avenue property where three other restaurants have closed over the past few years. Tropical Breeze Cuban restaurant lasted three years prior to closing in 2010. De Limin's Caribbean fare didn't last long; and the popular uptown Tom's hamburger relocation failed to make it this year.