March 12, 2007

The Juke Box: bringing a little uptown to downtown

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Driving along Highway 12, each person can recognize the familiar red sign that reads “Juke Box.”

Now newly renovated, Juke Box has reopened in a new location with a whole new style and a whole new look.

Juke Box has greeted the people of Delano for 27 years. After 18 years of owning the store, Bob and Sandi Holt were more than excited to move their business downtown.

It was the City of Delano that approached Bob and Sandi about moving 18 months ago.

“The mall is 30 years old, and eventually, it will be a new development of some sort,” Bob added.

With all the production around Highway 12, Sandi believes “with the growth in the community, there is a need for this type of restaurant.”

Ever since they can remember, Bob and Sandi always wanted to own a restaurant, but everything did not just fall into place. They had to start from the ground and work their way up.

“We had blank walls and dirt floors, to start,” Sandi remembered.

Both Bob and Sandi have been in the restaurant business for 37 years. The whole new look “isn’t new to us. It’s new to Juke Box,” Bob stated.

As a whole, Bob feels the ‘little’ Juke Box was similar to “The little engine that could. That’s the little Juke Box that did. The little Juke Box was built for a strip mall. This was built to be a restaurant. This is restaurant number one for us.”

Agreeing, Sandi added, “That was the little Juke Box that got us here. There was nothing wrong with it.”

When designing the new place, Bob and Sandi had a vision, but it took them and the help of three other designers to get where they are now. Bob, who wanted to fill space with more tables, had to learn that “less is more.”

They went for a more uptown, contemporary look. Down to the positioning of each light to the sound system and the salad bar, everything was “thought out,” he said.

Expansion was necessary for practically everything, including the menu.

“We needed to expand, so we added breakfast and buffets to the menu,” Bob said.

Juke Box offers sit-down breakfast Monday through Friday and a breakfast buffet on Saturdays. Every Sunday has a full buffet.

Taking a glance at the menu, Bob added, “We’re not a bowl of oatmeal and an English muffin with toast kind of breakfast.”

Juke Box makes all its foods from scratch.

“Nothing comes in off a truck. It’s a lot of preparation,” Bob said.

Continuing, Sandi affirmed, “you can tell the outcome is good.”

The menu, itself, is not the only upgrade. The size of the restaurant has nearly doubled. To prepare for this, Bob also wants to increase the number of employees from 40 to 80.

When asked why they wanted to hire so many for staff, Bob replied, “There are only about 12 of us who are doing the heavy lifting, and then the other 68 do the light lifting.”

Most employees work part time, and Bob said the restaurant has a lot of people who multi-task.

“People who are multi-tasking are usually better employees,” Bob said.

Both Bob and Sandi want to ensure that they have enough staff to provide their guests with the highest level of hospitality.

The couple especially has placed a huge emphasis on guest satisfaction.

“The pressure is for us to perform. They’re only going to give us one look. You never get a second chance to make a first good impression,” Sandi said.

When asked what it takes to run a restaurant, Sandi replied, “Hospitality, patience, and you’ve got to like working with kids. For a lot of them, it’s their first job, so you have to teach them. You’re kind of like their mentor. It’s a good experience for the young ones to get their feet wet.”

“We don’t want to be known as the pizza place with linen,” Bob said about the restaurant’s reputation. “We want to be known as a place where you can get a good meal and a good drink in a totally smoke-free environment.”

Ideally, Bob figured, “We’ll deliver the pizza and a nice dinner for the babysitter and the kids, and then the parents can come eat here.”

Bob found it comical how so many did not know Juke Box was moving, even after 18 months of advertising.

“Now that we are open in a new location, people want to work here,” he said.

There have been anywhere from 10 to 15 applicants a day since Juke Box has moved. In a new location, the staff also has had to adjust to a new environment.

“I wish I would have kept a diary. There is just so much happening right now,” Bob said, reflecting on the past 18 months. “We closed our restaurant on Friday, we moved during a blizzard, and we opened up the day of a blizzard.”

It’s very rare to see independent restaurants opening up with brand new facilities.

Together, Bob and Sandi feel extremely privileged and obligaed to help with the redeveloping of the town of Delano, and they also believe that this is what downtown Delano needs, “a professional and family-oriented restaurant.”

The Juke Box is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and is located in downtown Delano on Bridge Avenue.

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