VALRICO — Since 1975, Invoice Robinson has been working in a restaurant.
Now after 40 years, the founder and namesake of Willie’s: The Place For Seafood — previously often called Fats Willie’s — will hold up his frying basket on the venerable spot neatly tucked away on the nook of Entrance and Primary streets.
For the previous few years, Robinson has been getting ready his stepson Jeff Peterson and Jeff’s spouse Danielle to run the present, and this yr they lastly took full management of the kitchen and the books.
Each started working at Willie’s as youngsters.
“The final three or 4 years I began slowing down,” Robinson mentioned. “Jeff has been managing the place for some time and I believe he’ll do a very good job protecting it going.”
Peterson, who already has greater than 15 years beneath his belt, has been a serving to hand in some ways.
“I began washing dishes once I was 15 after which I went away to school and labored at a number of locations,” Peterson mentioned. “I obtained a stomach stuffed with it so I got here again and now I am doing every thing from cooking and cleansing to repairs.”
Peterson shares the identical principle of “protecting it easy” as his stepfather, a trait they each consider helps the mom-and-pop enterprise thrive amongst so many chains now lining main Brandon roadways.
Involving the household is nothing new for Robinson. He began the restaurant with the assistance of his mom, cousins and uncles, however it took him some time to seek out his solution to being an space seafood-serving icon.
After a stint at FSU, he left the college and joined the Air Pressure.
“I went to FSU, however I could not proceed as a result of I did not have the funds,” Robinson mentioned. “The draft was respiratory down our neck as a result of in these days when you weren’t in school you had been going to get drafted, so I spent 4 years within the Air Pressure.”
After leaving the Air Pressure, Robinson dabbled in a varied careers: development in Miami whereas studying the ins-and-outs of aviation, flying for Winn Dixie and finally turning into a salesman, first for a truck-trailer producer after which Xerox.
It wasn’t till he was in his 30s that he realized he wished one thing extra for himself and all it took was a number of good, deep-fried fish.
Throughout his time in North Carolina working as a salesman, Robinson frequented Lineberger’s Fish Camp.
“You have by no means seen a corporation working as clean as this restaurant,” Robinson mentioned. “It had 550 seats and it was like going to Disney World.”
Robinson spent every week in Jack Lineberger’s kitchen, frantically jotting notes on his notepad.
He recorded every thing: Recipes, menus, costs, kitchen tools mannequin numbers, and even the place components had been purchased. And he introduced all of it to Florida when he moved from North Carolina on the age of 35.
Amid 40 years of working his personal seafood joint, a handful of movie star visits and a number of generations of patrons, Robinson nonetheless recollects the primary few weeks of reconstruction and opening the restaurant as a few of his fondest recollections.
“The thrill was the excessive half,” mentioned Robinson. “I used to be excited from the second I began ripping up that flooring within the kitchen with my brother and cousin.”
Now the Petersons look to proceed the custom and maintain all of it within the household.
As an alternative of planning any main additions or adjustments to the enterprise, the Petersons are centered on enhancing what they’ve.
“The constructing is over 100 years outdated, so we aspire to earn sufficient cash to sink a giant chunk of that into it,” Jeff Peterson mentioned.
Whereas the couple believes Robinson constructed one thing sustainable and do not plan to make any main enterprise adjustments, they do consider that including a number of objects for the health-conscious guests will assist attain out to new clients.
“We actually do not wish to change the enterprise mannequin,” Danielle Peterson mentioned. “We might like so as to add a number of wholesome objects to the menu, however in any other case it is good, home-cooked meals that is clearly labored rather well.”
The brand new chapter for your complete household will carry on new adventures for all concerned. Robinson and spouse Maryellen plan to journey across the nation, whereas the Petersons take cost of the restaurant in addition to their two younger kids.
So far as the long run goes, all of them share a standard hope.
“I grew up right here and this place is my coronary heart,” Danielle mentioned. “I might love for it to remain within the household so long as we are able to maintain giving clients and good expertise.”
Contact Kelsey Sunderland at [email protected]