By Bryce Abshier
After 36 years of the restaurant business, Dave Grundy and his wife Lora Grundy are moving on to the next chapter of their lives. Their restaurant, Plaza Lunch, has been a favorite among Belleview locals from the time it first opened the doors in 1987. As of May 1 this year, the restaurant is now under new ownership, as RJ’s Diner.
“I truly want to thank my customers for their loyalty and support over the years,” explained Grundy.
Dave Grundy first visited Belleview in the late 1980s and loved the small, hometown feel of the community. “I had a friend whom lived in Belleview, Merle and Linda Cross, and I came down and stayed in a camper he had,” Grundy explained. “I came down March of 1987 and ended up loving Belleview. It was a small hometown which I’m used to,” he said. “I came from a small town in Pennsylvania called New Castle, about 40 miles from Pittsburg.”
Before becoming a restaurateur, Grundy worked in the roofing and spouting business and rebuilt chimneys. “Merle Cross gave me a job at 17 years old doing roofing, spouting and rebuilding chimneys,” said Grundy. “I bought Merle out when he moved to Florida, about 15 years prior to me moving to Florida.”
Once the three were all in Florida together, they decided to try their hand at something new: the restaurant business. Thus Plaza Lunch was born. “Merle and Linda Cross and myself opened Plaza Lunch together. We were all partners,” Grundy explained. As best that he can recall, they first opened the doors in May of 1987. The restaurant was originally located in the plaza on the hill, above the old Publix location, nearby the current site of Mojo’s Grill. The location was chosen because at that time, there was nothing else on the north end of Belleview.
“After being in the restaurant business for one year, Merle and Linda decided it was not what they wanted. So I bought them both out a year later,” Grundy Explained. After a few more years, in 1993, Plaza Lunch moved to what would become its permanent location at 10705 US-441, in the Kent Furniture plaza.
The restaurant business was not Dave Grundy’s only passion. After more than a decade of running Plaza Lunch, he decided to try his hand at a pre-owned car dealership. “In 1998, Larry Grose, a really good friend of mine, knew I was interested in opening a car lot,” said Grundy. “At the time, Larry was working with William Jones and he had a car lot and wanted to sell it, on the corner of Baseline and Hames Road.”
“William Jones and myself worked out everything and here I am, 24 years later. I always liked the car business. I worked in a used car lot where my dad worked at 14 years old and remembered enjoying doing that,” said Grundy.
Dave Grundy took time to reflect on his time as a restaurant owner. “The restaurant business is very demanding and the work seems to be never done. I have had some amazing employees over the years. After all, without good help, you have no business,” he explained. He remembered some of his longtime employees, including Debbie Maxwell, a cook for 27 years, Tammy Jenkins, of 26 years, Debbie Price, of 23 years, Sandy Oelberg, of 24 years, and Trudy Marsolek, of 18 years. There were many more throughout the years, Grundy noted. “Good help and good food is the key to good business.”
At Plaza Lunch, the secret to success was how they treated customers. “When you treat customers right, they will always come back,” said Grundy. “You have to listen to the customers and hear them, don’t just brush them off. After all, if it was not for customers, you would have no business.” For most of the years that Plaza Lunch was open, all customers were invited to a Christmas party, complete with a free meal and a visit from Santa Claus. “I say treat all customers and people great it will come back to you ten-fold,” Grundy remarked.
When it comes to competition, Grundy says those in the restaurant business had better not badmouth anyone. “I have always loved talking and getting involved with many customers. One thing people need to know when your in that business, it is not good to talk to customers badly about your competition,” he said. “It could hurt your business. The person your talking with might not like what your saying and pass it on to others, and that can truly hurt your business.”
While some of his longtime customers are no longer with us, Dave Grundy can recount many who were loyal over the years. Customers like Carl Boweman, of at least 35 years, and Bob and Christine Dobkowski, customers of 30 years. “Christine is our great mayor now and all ten of their kids grew up at Plaza Lunch,” said Grundy. “Belleview was great to work with and as far as I’m concerned, Belleview is still great.”
Other faithful customers, to name a few, included John and Betty Dannar, George and Judy Platt and his family, Dean Woodyard, and Dallas Wood.
The most popular food items frequently ordered at Plaza Lunch were eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, hamburgers, club sandwiches, liver and onions, homemade meatloaf, omelets, fish, chili dogs, and homemade soups. Their famous fish fry in the winter time on Friday nights, with all you can eat and salad bar, also packed the house.
Now that the curtain has closed for good on Plaza Lunch, Dave plans on spending more time with those who matter the most. “I’m going to take more time and enjoy life with my wife Lora, my dog Paisley, and my family,” he said. “I still have the car lot and I will just keep working it until who knows when. It has been a good run, I’m very blessed by God and he will show me the way.”
According to Grundy, the new owners of RJ’s Diner, who happen to be sisters, are well equipped to tackle the restaurant business. “Racheal McClintoch and Julie Murray, these two ladies have been waitresses for years and they’re very good business-minded ladies, with the passion and drive it takes to make it all work,” he said. “They have the drive and hard work ethic it takes to be successful. With the customers I have, and the following they have, and the personality they have, I know these ladies will have customers standing in line to get in.”