Stop 57: The 1920’s Neal’s Shop Perfect/Crest/Valencia/Lori Anne’s
Club Wag’s Grooming (Neal’s Sundries Building, Crest, Valencia, Lori Anne’s).
Built as a sundries store in 1920 by Harry Neal, it has housed a variety of popular places including the Crest Restaurant and Valencia Restaurant. Lori Anne’s was a stylish gift and specialty shop created by Lori Anne and Grady Cunningham.
It was July 16, 1920, and the Dade City Banner reported:
The opening of Shop Perfect “Harry’s Place,” Thursday afternoon was “perfectly lovely, scrumptious, or successful,” according to the language you use. Mr. Neal had to assist him on this occasion his brother, Denver Neal. Mrs. Denver Neal and Miss Vivia Craig were also kept busy handing out Harry’s treats in the way of drinks and cream.
The building and all the furnishings are new and in splendid taste, and so light and airy, it will prove an attractive place for a little refreshment and chat. The soda fountain is pink Tennessee marble trimmed with Mexican onyx and the back bar is mahogany. All the show cases and other furnishings are mahogany and the woodwork painted to correspond. The fountain appliances are the latest ideas, and so is the carbonator with the filter attached to arrest any particle of rust or dirt in the water. It was an auspicious opening and promising of a successful business.”
A well-equipped pharmacy at 14135 7th Street addressed attention to customer service. In contrast to the early elegance reported above, a certain irony can be found as Neal enthusiastically hosted the area’s fishing contest, and often displayed the winning fishes.
Black bass, each weighing more than twelve pounds, is a somewhat unusual event, but that is the record made this week. Both fish were caught with rod and reel, one at Hudson Lake and the other at Blanton Lake. The fish were entered in the annual contest staged each year by Shop Perfect Pharmacy where they were officially weighed .
The fish were placed on exhibition in the window of the pharmacy and were quite the center of attention.
A nice addition to Dade City with a structure that has stood the test of time; perhaps the only negative publicity came when the twenty-seven-year-old Town Marshal, Walter Hargraves dropped over dead at the soda counter one evening in 1924. Some say his presence still lingers.
Neal sold the shop in the midst of the Great Depression in the 1930s to William Shofner who saw the possibility for a booming restaurant and opened Shofner’s Restaurant which he moved into the Shop Perfect location. Thelma Touchton said this was a gathering place for young people at the lunchroom which offered 24-hour service.
In the late 1930s Shofner sold it to two men who rented it to Joe Hevia who named it Hevia’s Restaurant. In the 1940’s Tommy Barfield bought the restaurant and named it the Valencia Restaurant. He operated it for eighteen years. He then moved his restaurant business to U.S. 301 South.
Subsequently, it was purchased by Dr. Harry Trowbridge who named it the Crest Restaurant. Earl Fitzgerald helped Trowbridge come up with the name, The Crest as Fitzgerald owned a restaurant called The Mayflower at that time. Perhaps it was providential that Fitzgerald ended up buying the Crest in 1961. Fitzgerald started a buffet which boasted 99 cents for all you could eat. Fitzgerald said in 1983 that one hundred customers dined at the buffet each day and more than two hundred on Fridays.
Fitzgerald was a native of Albany, Georgia and moved to Dade City in 1956. He was thrilled to be featured in the popular television show called the Phantom Dinner Show in 1982. A beloved location, the Crest was filmed by WTOG-TV for the Phantom Diner segment of channel 44 for the P.M. Magazine. The food received an ‘A’ rating. The critic related, just picture a small-town café and you have it!
The years in which the edifice was The Crest Restaurant were lively and fun. In 1984, an Easter champagne brunch was offered with champagne goblets and the mainstay dishes were replaced with classier names for the holiday brunch. For example, there was Eggs Fitzgerald consisting of poached eggs served over crabmeat on an English muffin with cream sauce or Earl’s Sunshine Omelets.
In 1986, they teasingly reported on the discrepancies from service and food in the upstairs verses the downstairs, comparing the more high-brow clientele at the upstairs tables enjoying the sumptuous buffet verses the short order folks down stairs.
By 1994, Fitzgerald listed the Crest Restaurant with Realtor Lewis Abraham. He was ready to retire.
In 1997, a new life came for the location in the form of a beautiful gift shop known as “Lori Anne’s.” Lori Anne Bedrosian Cunningham transformed it once again. She was named Chamber Business person of the year in 1997. This was her third business venture in town. She opened Church Street Antiques in 1993 and later The Picket Fence, a flower and gift shop. A very popular location for customers just next door to Williams and Lunch on Limoges, guests enjoyed browsing the elegant collections of Lori Anne’s. Lori Anne retired in 2022, and the business is in another metamorphism as it prepares for a new proprietor.