Tom Wade has eaten two meals a day at the Koffee Kup restaurant since 1999.
When he found out the owners of his beloved diner were looking to sell it and retire, Wade, 59, decided to buy the restaurant this past summer and continue its legacy.
After two months of being closed while ownership changed over, the business is slated to open for business Friday.
Located at the end of Timberlake Road in Campbell County, the diner has attracted dedicated regulars for decades. First opened as a frozen custard stand in 1954, it was eventually converted to the Koffee Kup.
For Wade and others, the attraction to the Koffee Kup was its simple home cooking, a reminder of times gone by.
“It reminded me of my mother’s cooking, everything about it,” said Wade, a Lynchburg native. “The food was tasty, always hot and had good portions at a good price.”
At the heart of the restaurant is the counter surrounded by stools where regulars would sit and have their meals, often chatting for hours after they were done eating.
“It’s fun to have just a bunch of people sitting around here talking and carrying on,” Wade said. “My wife asked me why I wanted to go into the restaurant business, and I told her, ‘I want to do it for the people because I miss them.’”
As for his business model, Wade is keeping everything almost exactly the same.
After repainting the entire restaurant, cleaning it and doing some plumbing maintenance, he hired back some of the same staff to run the restaurant, cook the food and wait on customers.
The Koffee Kup’s various owners over the years have largely kept the restaurant the same, including Howard Stephens, Barry Stephens’ father. Howard Stephens purchased the restaurant in 1997 when Barry was in his 40s. Barry came to love the place.
“They always compared it to the breakfast version of ‘Cheers,’” Barry said, referring to the popular television sit-com. “There was a regular crew that would meet in there for breakfast every single morning. We would call it the breakfast board of directors.”
For many of these regulars, the Koffee Kup was the heart of their social life. Mitchell Powell, a regular since 2003, first began going to the restaurant after his first wife died of cancer in 2002.
“You get to be kind of lonely so I started dropping in there and everybody was friendly and I got to know everybody,” he said. “I remarried in 2006 and now we both go there.”
Many regulars have been stopping in to see when Wade would reopen the restaurant.
“A lot of my friends are all rooting for Tom to get it back operating so we can come back to the old place,” Barry said. “It’s not just me either. There’s a whole lot of other folks.”
For Wade, the most exciting thing about being the new owner of his own restaurant is the people.
“The two months they’ve been closed, it’s like a part of me is missing,” he said. “I’m just excited to get it open so I can see all of my friends again. I don’t even call them customers, I call them friends.”