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James and Ashley Fincher hope their business venture will be a success.
It’s called Hope’s Diner, taking its name from their 13-month-old daughter and it occupies the building most recently used by Marcello’s.
The building, located on Va. 122 south of Bedford about 200 yards north of its intersection with Va. 24 has been there a long time. It originally had a convenience store and service station bays and James said that some of their 50-something customers (they had their grand opening on April 7) say that they remember shopping at the convenience store as children. He thinks it may be 60 years, or so, old, and hopes that somebody, who reads this story, will know exactly when it was built.
“Maybe we’ll actually get the real story of when it was built,” he said.
Eventually, over the years, the service bays became a restaurant, but the convenience store remained. When the Finchers took over, they did away with the remaining relics of the convenience store business.
The Finchers have extensively remodeled the inside since they moved in, a successful effort to make the decor more appealing. This includes an indoor play area for small children.
Ashley said that she worked in a restaurant in Northern Virginia that had such a play area and she decided, when the day came when she had her own restaurant, her’s would have one too.
They built it in the former convenience store side, using the area that once held the drink cooler. The wide bays, through which people would reach to get their drinks, provided nice open spaces which allow parents a panoramic view of what’s going on. There’s a door and an adult waist high wickerwork panel that keeps what’s in the play area in the play area. It has a colorful padded floor and a couple of wall chalkboards for little ones to use for scribbling.
The couple, by the way, represent a mixture of local and Northern Virginia. Ashley grew up in the Dickerson Mill Road area of Bedford County. James is a native of Loudoun County. They met when Ashley came up to Northern Virginia for a weekend to visit friends.
And they have plenty of ways for people to enjoy the diner.
“We are going to host birthday parties,” commented Ashley.
Hosting events is one of their offerings. The restaurant seats up to 80 people.
Their idea is to make everything new.
“We wanted new food, new atmosphere, new service standards,” James commented.
The restroom doors are no longer what patrons see when they first enter the front door. Restroom doors immediately staring her in the face got Ashely’s attention the first time she walked in and she concluded that had to change. The Finchers screened them off with an attractive privacy wall.
James has been involved with restaurants and food service for 20 years, ever since he first started working in a restaurant in high school. Since then he’s worked in various capacities for major hotel chains, working for Marriott, the MGM Mirage in Biloxi, Miss., and for Wyndham.
“That’s where I first got involved in management,” James said. This was at the George Washington Hotel, a historic facility that Wyndham owns in Winchester.
He had gotten the urge to start his own restaurant while working in Biloxi. At the George Washington he tried to prepare himself for his time to have his own place.
“The exciting part is that I can use all the positive things I’ve learned,” he said.
What he’s learned is that the most important issue is to have good food.
“It’s all home cooked food,” Ashley said concerning the fare they serve.
“We don’t do anything half-way,” added James.
He said that they cut their own steaks and pork chops and make up their burgers themselves. All their salad dressings, pies and desserts are made there.
“We choose to buy everything, the raw ingredients, and put it together ourselves,” James said. “It takes a little more time on preparation, but if you put the time in, you get the return.”
They have also hired a chef, named Michael Guess, who began working on April 12.
“He has 30 years of experience,” said Ashley.
Then comes good, friendly service. Finally, it’s important to keep the price reasonable so people can come back more often.
“You can’t get around the price,” he commented.
Hope’s Diner is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. It’s open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday hours are 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Items from the breakfast menu are available all day. Items from the lunch menu are available after 10 a.m. and dinner menu items can be ordered after 4 p.m.
“After 4 p.m. you can order anything,” James said. You can order a breakfast platter in the evening if that’s what you want.
They will have a special menu on Sundays that will feature a mix of breakfast, lunch and dinner items.
They also have carry out available and James said that they will soon have carry out menus available. Carry out orders can be made by calling (540) 583-5060.
James describes Hope’s Diner as “new restaurant, new atmosphere, new experience.”
“Now, it’s time to work,” he commented.