The day Heather Woodall signed the papers making her purchase of Oakley’s Grille official, her drive home that night to Haines City took more than two hours
It turned out to be an ominous sign.
Woodall confirmed last week that the long commute, combined with becoming a new mother, has made running a restaurant so far from home impossible, and Oakley’s has once again been sold.
Located at 17631 Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd., Oakley’s opened in 2011 in the old Quizno’s location (next to Supercuts) in the North Palms Village. Keith Oakley’s spot developed a strong following as one of the area’s hidden restaurant gems.
In February, Oakley sold his restaurant to Woodall and partner Ladesha Stoudemire, who discovered the place through a business broker who stopped in to have lunch there.
Despite the typical grumblings from diehards about the place losing some of its charm, due to minor changes, as well as some personnel departures, Oakley’s Grille remained popular during the transition.
“We had a strong base of regulars,” Woodall said. “Things were good.”
Although rumors circulating around the restaurant by staff is that the burger joint — arguably home to New Tampa’s best burgers, as well as great chicken and other sandwiches and salads — could be converted into an Italian restaurant by the new owner, Luca Ammirati.
Woodall said she has been told that Oakley’s will again remain largely unchanged.
“He is keeping it as is,” Woodall said.
However, on top of the usual difficulties in succeeding in the always-tough restaurant business, Woodall faced other challenges.
“We decided to put all of our energy into a family,” Woodall said. “It was a great experience. It was really bittersweet, because we would have loved to remain here but it wasn’t feasible. With the drive and the traffic and with the little guy, you can only imagine.”
Efforts to reach the new owner were unsuccessful, but the Oakley’s faithful are likely hoping that Woodall is right, and one of the area’s best burger places will remain as is.
COMING SOON, ‘MON: Next to Oakley’s, where the old Dairy Queen used to be before being shuttered last year, progress continues to be made on the area’s latest entry into the restaurant market – The Humming Bird Jerk House.
The Jamaican-style restaurant is well into the remodeling process but still has a few permitting and final inspection hurdles to complete. Word is, the jerk spices should be humming by the end of the year. And, according to plans filed with Hillsborough County, the restaurant looks like it will have indoor seating for roughly 32-35 patrons.
OVER AND OUT? Although there are no signs on the door indicating that it has closed for good, that does appear to be the case at Café Ole Restaurant & Tapas Bar, which was at one time considered one of New Tampa’s hidden culinary gems.
A peek inside the restaurant, located at 10020 Cross Creek Blvd. (next to Thai Lanna), across the street from the New Tampa Regional Library, looks like it could re-open for business tod
ay. But, all three sections of Olé have been closed since at least the beginning of August.