Virginia Diner looks forward to anniversaryPublished 10:41am Wednesday, December 11, 2013
WAKEFIELD—It’s been a setting in fiction. Governors and celebrities have dined there. Newspapers from as far away as Atlanta have come up to chronicle the down-home country cooking of the Virginia Diner.
The business, which is turning 85 this upcoming year, has grown from a boxcar diner to a full-fledged restaurant and an online business that sells to customers all over the world. It all started with Mrs. D’Earcy Davis serving up hot biscuits and vegetable soup out of a refurbished Sussex, Surry and Southampton Railroad car. The Monahan family owned the business from 1945-1976, when current owner Mary Ann Galloway purchased it.
Just because it is bigger doesn’t mean that the quality has gone down. Robert Bain has been coming since he was a kid.
“I remember we used to come here on a bikes as children. I’d order a Coke and harass the wait staff — I guess some things never change,” Bain added with a laugh.
“Today, I eat more meals here than I do my own house. When I was a single man, I used to eat three meals a day here. The staff is kind of like my extended family.”
He comes back because of the staff and the commitment to quality food is still there.
The place is still a beacon for travelers, as well. Before Interstate 64 and the tunnel-bridges, Route 460 used to be the way to go from Virginia Beach to Richmond, and it still serves as the way to get to Petersburg.
Sally and Oz Herzer and Linda and Skip Brown were on their way to Petersburg, but they had to stop at Virginia Diner on the way.
“We heard about this place through word of mouth,” said Skip Brown. “It’s sort of a tradition amongst travelers.”
“It’s a great place to stop and have a good meal,” added Linda Brown.
Scott Stephens, who is the diner’s director of sales and marketing, said the staff is thrilled about the 85th anniversary.
“We’re excited about having such a loyal customer base,” he said. “They make this a great place to work.”
It doesn’t have a counter, but it does have a community table up front where locals and travelers alike can sit together. And today, staff were sitting at that table and having meals with some longtime customers, including Bain.
“It’s one of the things that contributes to our down-home atmosphere,” said Stephens.
As far as an exact opening date, if you travel to the department of records – as a member of the staff has – you can’t find a specific time of when in 1929 there was a grand opening, though Stephens said they can say for certain that it was opened by September.
In the upcoming year, the company is going to have two special events to mark the occasion, he added.
On April 25-27, the company is going to have some special deals on its products throughout the store.
A bigger event is being planned for Sept. 26-28. As a “Virginia’s Finest Company,” the diner has invited the department of agriculture to participate. They are also hoping to have some state dignitaries show up.
“We’re hoping to have a lot of traffic here for that,” said Stephens. “I’ll let you know more about that as time approaches.”