Landmark Restaurant Still Going Strong After 35 Years
Widow Brown’s owner Kathy Kokkinakos credits quality food and excellent customer service for her long-term success.
The entrance to Widow Brown’s Restaurant & Tavern faces a side street that is actually a dead end.
It’s in a nondescript building that sits 100 yards from a major intersection, the type of place you drive by hundreds of times without noticing if you are focused on reaching another destination.
But despite these obstacles and others, such as the economic downturn and the passing of many loyal customers, Kathy Kokkinakos has managed to keep the doors open to the restaurant her father purchased more than three decades ago.
“We’ve gone through some tough times,” Kokkinakos admits. “But you can’t complain when you still have the doors open.”
All in the Family
Tom Kokkinakos was a cook in the Canadian army who had extensive restaurant experience. After moving to Florida in the early 1970s, he purchased the restaurant at 2076 Seminole Blvd. from its original owner, widow Brown herself.
Kathy Kokkinakos started working in the eatery, which at the time served only dinner, when she was just 12 years old, preparing salads and traveling with her father to Tampa to pick up the day’s produce order.
She literally grew up in the restaurant, and she watched it grow, as well. After marrying her husband, Louie, in 1990, they added breakfast and lunch to the menu, and by serving homemade food at affordable prices, Widow Brown’s developed a loyal following of elderly residents and families.
Kathy Kokkinakos took over the restaurant shortly before her father passed away in 2001. She admits her desire to honor his legacy combined with the strong bonds she has formed with customers over the years motivates her to keep the restaurant going.
“I’m emotionally attached to this restaurant because of my father,” she says. “When I come in here, I see him and I see my childhood. There’s lots of good memories here.”
'We’re Not a Franchise'
An affordable menu of comfort foods, such as meatloaf, pot roast, ribs and roast chicken, complete with sides, has kept customers coming through the door throughout the decades.
“My father believed in serving homemade meals with all the fixings — soup, salad, pasta, vegetable and dessert — for $3.99. We have kept with that tradition, although the prices are slightly higher now.”
The meals at Widow Brown’s are all homemade. They use fresh ground beef for their burgers and meatloaf, fresh local produce, and make their soups daily, big reasons why they're still in business after 35 years.
“We’re not a franchise,” Kokkinakos states. “You go to a franchise, you get fake food. You come to an independent restaurant and you get real, homemade food."
Recipe For Success
Aside from fresh food and inexpensive prices, Kokkinakos attributes the restaurant’s longevity to the excellent customer service she and her staff provide.
“We try to give good food at great prices and give excellent customer service at the same time," she says. "I always tell my staff to treat people the way you want to be treated. Our customers are like guests coming into our home.”
“Customer service and quality food go hand in hand,” she adds. “If people come in for one and don’t get the other, they won’t come back.”