It appears you can go home again after all.
Largo native Danny Lehan started working at the Walsingham Road Village Inn Restaurant as a busboy 21 years ago. Now he’s back, as a franchisee.
“I’ve been in a love affair with the restaurant since I started here,” he said. “These are my people.”
And his ‘people’ keep coming back. At 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning, all tables were full with more customers coming in the door.
“We’re never not busy,” Lehan said. Just days after the Village Inn reopened business is up about 40 percent more than predicted.
The restaurant’s popularity could be due to the famous pies, retro decor and location. But Lehan said it’s more than that.
“We had a gap in the community. It was a huge loss when it closed,” he said. In 2010, the restaurant’s lease expired, leaving the building vacant. This year, Lehan and his father signed a new lease and started renovating.
People don’t want to just eat there. They want to work there too. Lehan had estimated 1,000 applicants would apply to work there, but he had more than 1,800. Hostess Morgan Reed said, “I went through two interviews. They liked my personality. I was really smiley.”
Lehan said he always knew the business could succeed again. That’s why he decided to return to reopen the place this summer.
“I ran it for 12 years for corporate - no doubts.”
Lehan’s not the only one going home again. Mark Speziale is a greeter at the Village Inn. He used to eat there when Lehan was a busboy.
“He told me one day I’m gonna own that place and here he is today. He’s a great person,” Speziale said.
“I trust he’ll be a very successful person - judging from my experience,” he added.
Speziale’s experience includes running a restaurant of his own in Dunkirk, NY. Now he opens the door for customers and chats them up as they wait for a table.
Despite a full house on Thursday Lehan stopped to talk to customers and thanked them for coming in. He said the Village Inn employees must all share this same sentiment to work there.
“We have a passion to serve. That’s who we are. We’re honored when guests walk through our doors.”
Village Inn is at 13105 Walsingham Rd. at the corner of Vonn and Walsingham Road. The phone number is 727-596-4310.