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Village Inn keeps it in the family

Ramona Shuemate, who goes by “Ramona From Pomona,” serves up plates of eggs, hash browns and sausage. Ramona has worked at Roberta’s Village Inn on D Street for more than 15 years. Francisco Ramirez, who worked at the restaurant as a cook for more than 12 years, bought the café in 2010. Roberta’s is popular for breakfast and for pot roast. / photo by Candice Salazar

Veronica Orozco
Staff Writer

Roberta’s Village Inn, originally named The Village Inn, has served traditional-style diner food in downtown La Verne since 1969 and has not changed significantly, despite the change in ownership three different times.

When Roberta Virgin acquired the Village Inn from its original owner in 2001, she had already been working there as a waitress for 30 years.

Virgin said she only bought the restaurant from the retiring owner because she could not afford to lose her job; the decision proved to be a good choice in the long run.

The only change that Virgin made after she acquired the Village Inn was the the name.

In order to signify its new ownership, she added her name and made it what it is today, Roberta’s Village Inn.

In 2010 Fran­cisco Ramirez followed his lifelong dream of owning a restaurant and purchased Roberta’s Village Inn.

Ramirez began working in the restaurant in 1999 as a line cook at the original Village Inn. Back then, Virgin was still a waitress.

When Ramirez purchased the place, he too was careful not to make big changes to the restaurant.

One change he made was the difference in the hours of operation.

Under Ramirez’s ownership, Roberta’s Village Inn now serves dinner three nights a week and offers specials for both lunch and dinner. The restaurant’s previous hours included breakfast and lunch only.

The homey atmosphere and 1950s diner look is a factor that contributes to the comforting and friendly aesthetic the place projects.

“Before deciding on Roberta’s Village Inn, my friends and I had gone to Warehouse Pizza, but it was so crowded and we were disappointed by the lack of variety on their menu,” Vicky Campos, a freshman music major, said. “We went to the Roberta’s Village Inn instead and the place seemed empty, but when we were seated, we were taken to another area of the restaurant that was full of people.”

Virgin remembered a time when things were not as simple as they are now.

“One of the biggest obstacles was trying to please everyone,” Virgin said. “Francisco came into it when it was already a well established restaurant so he has not yet had many obstacles to overcome.”

Despite competition from places like Angel’s Place, Warehouse Pizza and Café Cabo only 30 feet away, Roberta’s Village Inn still managed to remain competitive.

“For a business to survive it has to have a competitive edge that sets it apart form the competition,” Paul Abbondante, associate professor of finance at the University of La Verne, said.

A reason for such success could be because Virgin and Ramirez worked together for so long and their bond strengthened.

“I think of him as a son,” Virgin said.

Ramirez echoed that sentiment.

“I think of her as a mother,” he added.

Some customers think of them as family as well.

“They really take care of their customers and establish a relationship that keeps their customers coming back and bringing friends,” said Abbondante.

Roberta’s Village Inn stand in a prime location and classic diner food, but lacks advertisements in the area.

Besides the sign with their name above the door and on the windows, there is not really anything that makes the building itself stand out from its surroundings.

“I never paid much attention to the restaurants in downtown La Verne,” Campos said, “but I found myself at Roberta’s one night when I was in search of mozzarella sticks.

“I really enjoyed eating there, because of the classic and comfortable atmosphere as well as the variety in the menu options and the fact that I could still have breakfast for dinner.”

Abbondante said that sometimes there are more effective marketing techniques than advertisements.

“Word of mouth advertising is the best and most effective way to keep a company going but it is hard to find, because you have to provide an exceptional service to set it apart from competition,” said Abbondante.

Word does appear to be spreading with positive reviews from people like Ashley Guerrero, a freshman child development major.

“The people there are friendly and the food is really good,” Guerrero said. “My favorite part about it though was their cherry pie. With the fact that I am a student resident and have no form of transportation, finding such a good place in walking distance is really good.”

Aside from word-of-mouth advertising, competitive prices and a location in the center of Old Town La Verne, Roberta’s Village Inn takes part in the seasonal Farmers Market, where they sell and give away free samples of their deserts.

Participating in the Farmers market was another addition that came along with Ramirez’s ownership.

Despite the three changes in ownership, one thing has been consistant in Roberta’s Village Inn; Throughout its 43 years in La Verne, it has maintained within the restaurant’s family and continued to keep locals coming back for more traditional diner food.

Veronica Orozco can be reached at veronica.orozco@laverne.edu.

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