Former Jimmy's Grille in Bridgeville may be demolished
The last reminders of the once-beloved Jimmy’s Grille in Bridgeville may come down as the site owner considers how to redevelop the land.
The restaurant had faced its challenges in recent years, being sold and eventually reopening briefly as Blue Hen Crossroads in 2019 before finally closing permanently.
At its last meeting, Bridgeville’s Planning and Zoning Commission listened to a proposal to put in storage units on the several parcels that make up the property. It was not a formal request by ownership, but simply an introduction of the idea for discussion with the commissioners, Town Manager Bethany Debussy said.
Storage units would fall under conditional use provisions, she said. In other words, because of Bridgeville’s zoning, storage units require approval by the town, which can set conditions on developers.
DeBussy said the owner would demolish all buildings on the land, including the restaurant, the banquet hall next door and two dilapidated houses. There’s a possibility for new restaurants of some kind eventually just to the south of where the Jimmy’s Grille parking lot used to be, toward the Wawa, according to paperwork submitted for the planning and zoning meeting.
This would add to a number of other storage facilities in the area that are either built or in the works, including a new one underway just up the street toward downtown Bridgeville.
“Those are indeed the hot ticket items,” DeBussy said.
Planning and zoning members did not all weigh in on the idea, she said, although some seemed opposed to it. Attempts to speak with Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Clint Whaley for this story were not successful.
Jimmy’s Grille had been a famous dining spot in Bridgeville since 1993, offering seafood, fried chicken and other homestyle food including breakfasts.
“The huge portions, homemade pies, cakes and fried chicken quickly became the stuff of Delaware legend,” the Cape Gazette reported in 2016.
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Founder Jimmy Tennefoss, dogged by legal troubles over the years, sold the building in 2006 to Highway One Group for $2.5 million, according to media reports from the time.
Highway One sued Tennefoss not long afterward, claiming he violated a no-competition agreement by providing catering in Seaford, the News Journal reported in August of that year.
Tennefoss died in 2013.
For years the restaurant did well, with a huge banquet hall available for rental next door to the restaurant and new locations opening up at the beaches in Dewey and Rehoboth.
The banquet hall’s wedding package, wrote Delaware Today, was “destined to become as renowned as (Jimmy’s) cinnamon buns.”
But it was not to be, at least in Bridgeville. Highway One sold the Bridgville location in 2018, the News Journal reported, and it was renamed Jimmy’s of Bridgeville. In December 2018, the article said, Jimmy’s was temporarily shut down by the health department for “gross, unsanitary conditions.”
That same year, Jimmy’s Grille in Rehoboth, still owned by Highway One, closed down. The Dewey Beach location remains open, though, so Jimmy’s fans can still get the familiar fare if they’re willing to travel.
Highway One partner Alex Pires said the Dewey location still has the same menu and a catering business. The restaurant is busy and the catering side is thriving, with more than 100 weddings booked already this year, he said. He called business “bonkers.”
Pires said during the years they had the Bridgeville location, “It was a very lucrative business. We made money.”
They didn’t sell it for financial reasons, he said, but because it was so far from their beach headquarters and it was hard for managers to commute to Bridgeville, especially during the summer. It got to the point, he said, where they couldn’t do it any more.
In the months after Jimmy’s of Bridgeville was temporarily shut down, owner Mike Kostis opened a rebranded restaurant at the site in 2019 called Blue Hen Crossroads Family Restaurant and Crab House, but it eventually closed.
He has since considered multiple plans to develop the site, DeBussy said, and the storage unit is the latest possibility.
The decaying sign still stands along Route 13, and the building sits empty in the open parking lot with weeds growing in the flowerbeds. You can still visit the website, but it advertises a restaurant that no longer exists.
While the site did work as a restaurant for Highway One, Pires noted that the restaurant industry can be tough.
The almost 70,000 square feet of storage units shown in preliminary plans would neatly cover up the site of the old Jimmy’s Grille. But it remains to be seen what will become of the plans.
“It’s nothing that is officially submitted,” DeBussy said.
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