Two years ago, Vickie Berends bought The Recipe Box Eatery and transformed it into a cheerful, gathering spot with a loyal following.
Good food, a friendly atmosphere and a steady parade of improvements helped Berends attract new customers to the 82-seat restaurant, located at 5207 33rd St. E., in the Manatee Towne Centre shopping center.
She is feeling especially thankful at Thanksgiving, not only for her new customers, but for the arrival of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in the shopping center.
Berends offers a 10 percent discount to customers who bring in an Ollie’s receipt and calculates business has improved by 25 percent since October, when Ollie’s opened.
“We are like a little diner from New Jersey that has been dropped into Bradenton,” Berends said.
She brought her 36 years of experience in the restaurant business, including owning businesses and working in management for corporations such as Panera Bread and Steak ’n Shake, to making The Recipe Box Eatery successful.
“God has blessed me with wonderful employees,” Berends said.
Her staff reflects her warmth and customer-first philosophy. Charles Koritsas is a regular at The Recipe Box. He and about dozen others from his church like to have their breakfast together there.
“They have very good food and it’s friendly here. Some of the guys come for dinner, too,” Koritsas said.
The diverse menu includes prime rib, perogies, fish and chips, pulled pork sandwiches, tacos and more, as well as lunch and dinner specials. The Recipe Box Eatery offers catering and delivery.
“The owner is a wonderful person and she is a member of our church,” Koritsas said.
Not only has Berends brought a new spirit to the restaurant, she also has invested in capital improvements to make it more comfortable and modern, including new LED lighting, booths and kitchen equipment.
In addition to physical improvements, The Recipe Box Eatery has tapped into the arts. Kathleen Fairchild plays piano dinner music from 5-8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and Chuck Henry plays accordian from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sundays for brunch.
There is energy here. There is love. The food is good. I love what I do.
Vickie Berends, owner of The Recipe Box Eatery in Bradenton
The walls at The Recipe Box Eatery are covered in original art by local artists. Berends makes the space available at no charge to the artists, and a new artist is featured each month.
“I have put all the pieces together. I believe 2018 will be the year. We are a neighborhood place where people feel at home,” she said. “I believe you have to treat the customer well. There is energy here. There is love. The food is good. I love what I do,” she said.
Berends has a staff of 17 and wants to grow that to 21 by January.
The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.