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A reimagining can be better than a drastic change. The new “Jimmy’s Family Restaurant” looks and feels like Friendly’s, but more local, with a simple menu of classic American fare.
Jimmy is the nickname of both of Vince DeJoy’s grandfathers. He said, “Back in the day, they used to call Vincent’s ‘Jim.’” One of DeJoy’s sisters came up with the idea for “Jimmytown” which was then shortened. “The name just sounds like someone you’d want to be friends with” said DeJoy. He explained this new venture as a family effort. His brother designed the logo and his sister designed t-shirts for the business. DeJoy’s father, one of the Jim’s, was in the catering business for thirty years and provides moral support.
Many were shocked and surprised to see Friendly’s at 10 South Main Street close on April 8th of this year. It was a regular place for folks to have family breakfasts, dinners, and ice cream near the urban renewal area by the Jamestown Riverwalk. Restaurants can close for a variety of reasons; it’s likely this Friendly’s closed because of rising costs and changing consumer tastes. With several other local favorites in the Jamestown and Lakewood areas closing as well, the ability to reimagine what a closed-door can mean, as an opportunity for positive change, can help the community move forward.
Vince DeJoy III worked with Marcy Parenti, the former Friendly’s General Manager, to open Jimmy’s Family Restaurant. DeJoy told Parenti that he’d be willing to take on the project of opening a restaurant if she agreed to be the General Manager. A grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday, August 7th. It was a goal to open in August for Lucy Fest, and they had plenty of work to do to meet that goal.
DeJoy expressed that he felt upset for all the employees that lost their jobs when Friendly’s closed.
He emphasized that the location is important to the community, in Brooklyn Square, described as the heart of Jamestown where much of the city’s commerce began. Nearly two months went by with no one showing any real interest in renting the building or starting a new restaurant. “I spent all of Memorial Day weekend creating a business plan” he explained. This isn’t DeJoy’s first foray into restaurant ownership. In 1991 he and his brother opened “Stage Left” where Forte is now.
As to how the process began to make the business plan into a real business, he said, “There was a loan fund through the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, and I put together an application when I made the business plan. I also put together my finances to figure out what I would need to do to have a viable business. They were very impressed with the business plan and the loan was approved in the latter part of June,” he continued, “once it was approved, my attorney helped us put together a lease with the property owner out of New York City.”
DeJoy and his wife Norma, who are the business owners, and family members worked to get the place ready in a relatively short amount of time. Interior painting, exterior clean up, mulching, new landscaping, and decorating needed to be done, along with some updates from local companies. The electric had to be upgraded and various plumbing projects like a new hot water tank were accomplished. Because of Parenti’s ten years of experience from Friendly’s, she oversaw the new menu. At the grand opening Parenti was seen checking in at each table, ensuring a good experience for customers. The choice was made to keep the menu family oriented with simple and affordable options like burgers, Reubens, salads, and fish fry. The highest price on the menu is $11.99.
One of DeJoy’s priorities was to hire a diverse workforce. Once the updates were complete, three weeks remained to get everything else in place for opening day, including talking to vendors and hiring employees. The staff of fifty were hired in a one-day job fair. “We have a very good core group of employees,” he said. Customers will recognize some faces from the old restaurant. The inside retains a classic look, with a case of ice cream cakes near the entrance and family photographs show the new ownership and the new intention of being all about family.
During our interview, the restaurant and vestibule were full of people with staff working busily to keep up, a good sign that locals are ready and willing to support the local endeavor. “It’s Baptism by fire,” Vince said, who seemed ready to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant business again the only way one can, by experiencing it first-hand.
Jimmy’s Family Restaurant is now open and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with hours from 7a.m. to 10p.m. Find them on Facebook under Jimmy’s Family Restaurant.