A familiar face in Collegetown has changed owners, selection and prices when Little Joe’s was taken over by Frank’s Italian Restaurant this August.
Frank Baldwin, the long time owner of the Smoothie Hut, became the owner of the Collegetown establishment as well as another local dance club, Republica over the summer.
He bought Republica in July, and “a month later the landlord called and offered me Little Joe’s. Two weeks later we were open; it was just that fast,” Baldwin said. “I literally hung up with the landlord and immediately put an ad in the paper and started hiring,” he added.
Students have showed reservations about making the switch from the former popular establishment that defines collegetown to the new Italian eatery.
“Little Joe’s was an institution in Collegetown, you depended on it, you were a regular,” said Micah Wexler ’04. “Then we leave for a summer and suddenly no more Joe’s. Of course we’ll be a little skeptical of the new place, but people will probably come around.”
Frank’s, which is named after Baldwin’s father, decided to have a more extended menu than the Little Joe’s had previously offered, with “friendlier prices.” Still, Baldwin soon found students yearned for the simple italian dishes they were used too.
“We had extensive dishes when we first opened, but students showed the appreciated the more traditional items, so right now we are moving back to that. Things like the bottomless salad and favorites like that,” Baldwin said.
Other students barely realized there had been a change of ownership.
“I didn’t notice it wasn’t Little Joe’s until after dinner when I saw the big sign out front and the man inside who was named Frank,” said Brett Davidson ’04.
Baldwin explained Little Joe’s was sold mainly because its owner Larry Church — who also owns the original Joe’s — resides predominately in Florida, and he was unable to devote the necessary time to managing two restaurants from Florida.
Being in the restaurant industry for thirteen years, Baldwin felt one of the most important aspects of keeping customers is the quality of food. He chose to hire Yeppi Pulsts, a five star cook, and to make sure all the ingredients were from scratch, but Baldwin admits there is always a period of adjustment. There will be a grand opening in January, when the restaurant is more firmly established and set in a routine.
“We went when it was still in its transition period, early September. The service and food was a bit slow, my food way okay, not amazing but neither is Joe’s,” Wexler said. “They did a nice recovery though when we had a problem with one meal. Frank’s comped that meal and gave us all free desert,” he said.
Frank’s is planning to continue the campus tradition of choosing Little Joe’s as a favorite birthday dinner restaurant. “We’re going to be giving out coupons and a pitcher on someone’s birthday; I want to keep the birthday parties coming,” Baldwin said. “We want people to come in, try the food and see the prices and I know they’ll be back.
Archived article by Julia Macdonald