The menu is the same, the $1.00 beer special is the same, and the employees are the same. Even some of the customers are the same.
The only thing different about Billy Jacks Burger Shack is the town it’s located in.
The popular burger joint/beach bar was a fixture in the downtown Palm Harbor district for the past three years, accumulating a fiercely loyal following among the locals thanks to its tasty food, cheap drinks, and relaxed & inviting atmosphere
But after a lease dispute with the landlord forced owner Bill McLemore to vacate the Nebraska Avenue spot at the end of July and move into what was to be his second location in the Belcher Square Plaza in Largo, many of the loyal patrons were left with two choices: mourn the loss of Billy Jacks forever, or follow it’s reincarnation 16 miles to the south.
Guess which path they chose.
“I’d say 75 to 80 percent of our old customers have made it down here at least once to check us out,” McLemore said. “Ninety percent of it is probably loyalty and 10 percent is probably curiosity.”
Obviously that feeling of loyalty is strong among longtime Billy Jack’s patrons.
“We started going to Billy Jacks about six months after it opened three years ago, and we just fell in love with the place,” Dunedin resident Chuck Gelini said by phone. “It was a family feel in there, like going out and barbequing every night with the neighbors.”
“Of course when they moved to Largo, we went down to support them. It’s a little bit farther, but they’re worth it.”
Even Palm Harbor residents who lived within walking distance of the old place have made the trek to the new location to support their beloved burger joint.
“One of the nice things about where I live is I could walk over there and walk home,” said Michael Carroll, who lives in the Villas of San Marino. “When they left, it left a huge void in the area.”
“I’ve been to the new place a few times already, and I’ll definitely go maybe every two weeks,” Carroll added. “But I hope Bill and Mary are able to open another place up around here.”
Ironically, McLemore had originally planned to move into the Largo location when he first came down here from Michigan in 2008, but the deal fell through. Now that he has made it back to Belcher Road, the whole situation has a bittersweet feel.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of exciting,” managing partner George Wich said of the move. “A lot of locals immediately saw us here and were coming to the door right away, and they’ve been coming back. So we feel good about being in this area.”
“It’s definitely bittersweet, because we wanted to be here, but we didn’t want to lose the old place, too,” he added. “Those people were more like friends and family to us than customers.”
McLemore promises to continue the Billy Jacks tradition of offering good food and cheap drinks with exceptionally friendly service, and he hints that he might be back in the north Pinellas County area before too long.
But until then he plans on making his mark in Largo, and he hopes to develop as loyal a following in South Pinellas as he had in Palm Harbor.
“We want to continue building on what we had in Palm Harbor and share it with these people here, because we were going to be here anyway,” McLemore said.
“But the thing I’ll miss the most is the old customers who made Billy Jacks what it is.”
Billy Jack's Burger Shack is now located at 1479 S. Belcher in Largo.