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‘Transitions,’ challenging economy behind J’ville Inn restaurant closure

A bicyclist rides past the Jacksonville Inn. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Saddened by the news of the Jacksonville Inn’s restaurant closure, former longtime owner Jerry Evans joked Monday he “made it look too easy for people.”

Cheers for Evans, 86, and his wife, Linda, went up among fellow diners when the Medford couple supped at the Inn for three days in a row last week alongside their former customers and friends. The Evanses knew meal service would cease — effective Jan. 7 — at the establishment they operated for more than 45 years several days before the announcement went up on the Inn’s website.

Randee Leever, who manages operations for the Inn’s new group of owners, declined to be interviewed.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Evans. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

But Evans and longtime manager Platon Mantheakis said they have reason to believe the restaurant’s end actually is a beginning for a few new businesses and chefs amid plans to lease out the Inn’s dining facilities. In its website announcement, the management for ADLO Group indicated it is searching for a tenant “that complements this exceptional restaurant space.”

“They’re in the real estate business,” Evans acknowledged of ADLO’s partners to whom he sold the Inn in 2021.

“I think the Jacksonville Inn will come back. ... It just needs the right person,” said Mantheakis, who managed the restaurant for nearly 35 years but resigned as the sale to ADLO was pending.

Evans said a recent conversation he had with one ADLO partner, Jeremy Leever, indicated plans already were in the works to lease portions of the Inn’s historical building. ADLO recently completed renovations on the Inn’s eight-room boutique hotel and wine bar, which will remain open at 175 E. California St.

Evans declined to speculate on factors that contributed to the Inn’s closure, although the website announcement referenced “significant transitions and challenging economic conditions.” Both he and Mantheakis acknowledged the many changes that took place over a year and a half at the Inn — in contrast to decades of reliability under the Evanses’ ownership.

“These people (ADLO), they made a huge investment ... and they’re entitled to make some adjustments,” said Mantheakis. “Maybe it was too soon for the clientele that had been around for 45 years.”

Mantheakis helped several longtime employees of the Inn secure jobs elsewhere by calling on his connections in the local food service industry. Confirming his former manager’s role, Evans said there were three steadfast employees who counted more than 60 years on the job between them.

“I think we found jobs for all of them,” said Mantheakis

“I had already moved on that the moment I found out.”

Operating his own catering company locally, Mantheakis referenced the shallow labor pool of restaurant workers, cost of ingredients and supply chain vagaries. It’s like “walking in a minefield” each week, he said, to track down the best prices on available products.

The longtime manager nevertheless emphasized the caring, community-minded nature of ADLO’s seven owners, who have interests in KDA Homes, Olaf & Company, RoxyAnn Winery, and Pulver & Leever Real Estate Co. In addition to the Leevers, the Inn’s website lists its owners as Laz Ayala, Corey and Amy Donovan and Shaun and Crissie Olson.

The sale was initiated in part because the Evanses son, Todd, was in poor health and unable to carry on the family legacy — and his dream — of operating the Inn in his parents’ retirement. Todd Evans died in September at age 60 after a 30-year battle with diabetes.

“It’s been very hard for Jerry,” said Mantheakis, adding the Inn ultimately was sold for “family reasons.”

Confessing to being a “nitpicker,” Jerry Evans was a hands-on owner who worked full shifts — that went beyond greeting customers to busing tables and other “dirty work” — throughout his tenure at the Inn. Mantheakis confirmed what many customers knew: The Inn wasn’t just Evans’ job; it was his passion.

“(The) hospitality business is different than a lot of businesses,” said Evans.

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com