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Diner gets a new name and location
By GREG WILLIAMS
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000
KENNETH CITY -- The Town House Restaurant and its popular Town House burger are gone, but the restaurant's owners are flipping their burgers in a new location.
The 24-hour diner on the corner of 46th Avenue and 66th Street, which was a favorite gathering place for nine years, has been closed since Mother's Day. But owners Tony and Angie Savva opened the New Jersey Diner, 10555 Park Blvd. in Seminole, in January.
Tony Savva said he voluntarily terminated his 20-year lease on the Town House to clear the way for the property to be developed as a convenience store/gas station. Tom Jimpie of the city's building department said Thursday no plans have been submitted yet to develop the site.
Savva, a broad-faced man of Greek Cypriot descent, sat down last week to talk about his health and his new restaurant.
Savva, who learned in February he had lung cancer and can work only a few hours a day, said a large part of his business at the Town House came from Kenneth City regulars who ate most of their meals there. Many have followed him to his new diner in Seminole, he said.
The popular Town House burger made the trip, too, although it's got a new name: the New Jersey burger. But, new name or old, it is still smothered in mushrooms and melted mozzarella cheese.
The Rev. Harold Paxton, pastor of Advent Christian Church and former mayor of Kenneth City, said he ate at the Town House as often as three times a week and would often meet parishioners there for a bite after church.
"It was like a small country town restaurant where people would go to meet. It was a neat place to meet," he said.
The Town House also was a favorite among Kenneth City's politicos, but Savva said he never got involved in the city's often rancorous politics.
His latest venture got its name from Somerville, N.J., where Savva lived before following his brother to Florida in 1976.
Savva learned he had cancer literally by accident on Feb. 13. He was on his way to buy Valentine's sweets for his waitresses when he was involved in an accident on Park Boulevard, just a stone's throw from his new diner.
"Four cars played me like a football," Savva said.
Savva said he escaped the crash with only a sore back and a scratched forehead -- even though rescuers had to saw off the top of his car to free him from the wreckage.
During a checkup afterward, X-rays revealed a dark spot on his lung.
Savva said the cancer was caught early and his prospects for beating it are good. He is undergoing chemotherapy, which makes him tire easily.
Despite his fatigue, Savva smiled when he recalled how he got started in the restaurant business 24 years ago as an immigrant from Cyprus who spoke no English and had just a few years of schooling.
The Family Place on 16th Street in St. Petersburg was his first restaurant. He and his brother, Chris, were partners. His brother put up the money. After two years, Savva said, his brother turned the business over to him.
"I'm lucky he helped me," Savva said.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.