BRADENTON -- Jeanne's Bistro reopened in a larger spot Thursday morning.
The coffee, breakfast and lunch bar operated by Jeanne Wilson opened in the building once home to the first Bealls. It opened as The Dollar Limit store in 1915.
Wilson opened her bistro two years ago at 417 12th St. W., about a block away from the new space.
The business was growing and needed more space, Chef John Wood said.
The new location has nearly twice the seating of the old one. Wilson said having more indoor seating, specifically booths, was important to her.
"Now we have 42 seats inside and we had 24," Wilson said. "Nobody else has booths down here, I don't think. I know when I go out to eat I prefer a booth."
Jeanne's Bistro also offers outdoor seating.
The building was constructed in 1906 and houses a variety of other downtown Bradenton favorites, including the Market on Main Street. The James Wallace trust owns the property.
According to Manatee County property records, the building is mixed-use residential and commercial. Trustee Gail Calandra said the building was originally a boarding house or hotel, and now the upstairs portion is used by artists as studio space. Recently, a real estate school moved in.
The space occupied by Jeanne's Bistro used to be an antique store. Wilson invested about $25,000 in the new Jeanne's Bistro and she said she's sure Calandra invested more.
Wilson appreciates the building's history and said there's no place she'd rather be than downtown Bradenton.
"It's just a little home on its own," Wilson said. "Everybody knows everybody. All of the merchants know each other and get along."
And although the area is expanding, Wilson said she loves the down-home feeling she gets when she comes downtown.
"It's a small-town feeling in a big town," Wilson said.
After he saw the opportunity for growth, Wood decided to join the team. Not much has changed on the menu, but Wood did add a turkey focaccia sandwich and a chipotle chicken wrap.
In his spare time, he tests potential dishes.
"When I've got time back there, I just play around with stuff."
He said his favorite part of the job is interacting with customers and seeing people's reactions to what he makes.
Wilson had the walls painted, floors sanded, refinished and resealed and had walls constructed to make room for a larger kitchen in the 1,400-square-foot restaurant. Wood is much happier in the new kitchen.
"We've got to keep the chef happy," Wilson said.
The word used most often to describe Jeanne's Bistro by customers and employees alike? "Home."
"John's food is amazing, Julie and Jeanne are great and everything's done with a smile," said long-time customer Sarah Bostic. "It feels like you're at home."
Bostic's two teenage girls often meet her at Jeanne's for a snack before cheerleading practice and she meets friends there before venturing into downtown Bradenton's Saturday morning farmers market. Bostic said she enjoys seeing everybody she knows and stops in at least two or three times a week. She said she loves the atmosphere at Jeanne's.
"It's like family," Bostic said. "It's downtown Bradenton."
Even though Jeanne's Bistro might be competition for the Market on Main Street, manager Pat Fullerton said he's excited to see them open up next door.
"It's good to see downtown growing and becoming more lively," Fullerton said.
He often ordered delivery from his new neighbor before they moved.
Wilson will host live music by David Smash from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and is planning a book signing for author Sam Black after he returns from California.
Jeanne's Bistro is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and serves breakfast until noon. They're open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and Wilson is thinking about opening on Sundays for wedding showers and other private parties.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.