BRADENTON -- If visitors to downtown Bradenton are in the mood for a burger, French fries and a flashback in time, they can make a stop at Lou's Diner.
Lou's Diner, a 1950's-themed diner, will open Wednesday morning. Formerly the Market on Main deli, Thomas Stynes, 47, said the phone has not stopped ringing over the past few weeks with customers asking when the diner will reopen.
Partner and the diner's namesake Mary Lou Thomey, 50, said she's prepared to be at the diner for the next week "pretty much nonstop" to help the diner and its 10-person staff find their groove. They finished final health inspections and tied up other loose ends on Tuesday, Thomey said.
"It's like 50 percent fear, 50 percent excitement," she said, expressing her feelings about opening day. "I think we'll be ready but I expect some glitches. We had some with the market."
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Everything on the previous Market on Main deli menu is on the Lou's Diner menu. The expanded menu includes late-night favorites such as cheeseburgers, French fries, traditional breakfast foods, chicken wings, nachos, ice cream and milkshakes. Comfort-food classics like shepherd's pie, meatloaf, and fish and chips also are available.
Lou's Diner is really what Thomey and Stynes wanted to do with the space at 310 Old Main St. originally, but they opened the Market on Main deli as a stand-in until they planned the logistics and obtained all the necessary approvals for the diner plan.
Thomey has bartended under others' management for nearly 30 years. She dreamed of running her own business in downtown Bradenton and being her
own boss. Her father, Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle, served in the military and the family "lived all over the world." They always returned to Bradenton, Thomey said, and she moved back permanently in 1999.
"I love the small-town feel and the beaches," she said. "And it's where my family is. My dad's brothers and all of their families live in this area."
Thomey and Stynes also operate McCabe's Irish Pub, a couple of doors down at the corner of Old Main Street and Third Avenue West. They opened McCabe's in April 2011 after Stynes closed Rasher Tierney's Irish Pub in early 2011.
"We lucked into a prime spot with McCabe's," Thomey said. "The bar pretty much takes care of itself and we wanted to do something else. So our landlords found a great spot for us."
Lou's Diner closed in July for the renovation. They hoped to reopen within a month, but Thomey said a "combination of things" contributed to the three-month closure.
"It was really ambitious of us to think we could turn it around in a few weeks," she said. "It rained every day in July, and when you have to pour a concrete foundation it just doesn't work."
Thomey and Stynes decided to strip the original floor, pour concrete and lay black-and-white tile to complement the 1950's diner theme.
Customers will find more seating at Lou's Diner than they found at the Market on Main deli. The counter in Lou's Diner doesn't extend as far into the roughly 1,000-square-foot space as the Market's sandwich counter did. The new design includes red vinyl booths, chairs and counter seats as well as plenty of 1950's-style wall décor.
Nathan Elliott, who works for Douglas, Knight & Associates in downtown Bradenton, said he visited the market almost daily to check when Lou's Diner would open.
He's worked close to downtown for a few years and preferred the Market on Main to any other downtown restaurants.
"The prices are good, the food is delicious and the sandwiches are great," Elliott said. Thomey recognized him as soon as he walked in the door.
"Sometimes, he'll just walk in and say 'make me something,'" Thomey said. Elliott hasn't found a similar quality and price elsewhere in downtown Bradenton.
"Jimmy John's is just an upgraded Subway sandwich and it's not that filling," Elliott said. "Sandwiches (at the Market) that are not on the menu have been the most creative and the most fun."
Thomey is excited to see even more creativity come out of the larger kitchen space, furnished with a full-size cooler, fryers and a commercial oven.
"Now that we have a full kitchen, we can do so much more," Thomey said.
She said one of the Market on Main deli's biggest complaints, ticket times, should also be taken care of by the new operation and equipment.
"It's something new and fresh for downtown," Stynes said. "It has a nice vintage vibe and I think that combined with 1950's music will give it a legitimate atmosphere. It'll be good, quality comfort food and there's a lot more to it than sandwiches, hot dogs and salads, which were a hit."
Breakfast food is available all day and Lou's Diner will have a special early bird menu available from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The diner will offer dine-in and takeout services. They hope to offer delivery services eventually.
And though Thomey expects to basically live at the diner until it's a smooth operation, she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It has my name on it so it's really important to me that everything is done and it's done well," she said.
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.