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Stop 58: The 1908 business with 1926 building of Williams/The 1981 Lunch on Limoges

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The 1908 business with 1926 building of William’s Department Store and later celebrity restaurant, Lunch on Limoges.


     In contemporary days, the restaurant, Lunch on Limoges outshines the Williams Department Store where it is housed in terms of fame and notoriety. William’s Department Store ‘business operation’ opened in 1908, as a Racket Store. Oscar Nathaniel “O.N.” Williams created the business as a haberdashery of all nature of items. It was originally located in the Nabors Jewelry Store space  in Griffin Block (Stop 35). The business was to move three times before the current permanent site was constructed.


     You ask what is a racket store?  Well, it was a term that was used for privately owned stores which offered shoes, groceries, dry goods, hardware, tableware, washtubs, ready-to-wear clothing for men and women and generally were known for their low prices.


     The founder was Oscar Nathaniel “O.N.” Williams. He was born in Bulloch County, Georgia in 1855, and moved to Florida. He married Amanda “Belle” Tucker and lived initially in Orlando before moving to Dade City. He was a circuit preacher for 38 years and established 38 churches in various parts of the state. He also represented Pasco County in the state legislature in 1915. He was also a businessman in Dade City for fourteen years. His obit in the Dade City Banner read:


Elder Oscar Nathaniel Williams, a leading dry goods merchant of Dade City, died at his home Friday afternoon and was buried from his residence yesterday morning. The deceased was a prominent minister of the Baptist church and was stricken with paralysis while at Sanford in attendance on a church convention, December 8. The funeral was largely attended all of the business houses in town being closed. (1922) 


     In the 1910’s O. N’s son, John Robert Alonzo (“JRA” known as Bob) Williams who was involved from the inception of the store, assumed control of the store. They prospered and soon built a new brick store, the one we recognize today which they moved into in 1926. The establishment featured clothes for all members of the family, fabrics, sewing notions, and even sewing machines. Milliners came into town periodically and fashioned hats for customers. Bob Williams married one of the milliners, Annalee Tucker. Eventually, his younger brother Virgil began working in the store and later Virgil and his wife, Virginia bought out the Bob and Annalee. 


     On Saturdays, throughout these years, all enjoyed the social climate of Dade City as folks came in to do their weekly shopping and socializing. 


    Right on cue, Virgil’s son, Phil Williams began working in the store in high school as a third generation of the family. Off to seek a different life, Phil earned a bachelor’s degree from Principia College in Illinois and later graduated from New York University School of Retailing where he interned at Lord & Taylor in New York City. From there Phil worked in various stores in New York and California. After a stint at home in Dade City to work out some issues with the store for his parents, he recognized the southern charm once again and decided he would like to follow his father. In 1966, he purchased Williams Department Store with a sincere commitment to keeping the caring and attentive service. 


     In 1981, Williams and his partner Skipper Mize opened Lunch on Limoges in the retail business as a way to bring more customers into the fashion center. They also opened the Pink Peacock in Winter Park.  Williams and Mize combined vacations with buying trips around the world…netting jams, spices, preserves, the latest couture, and unusual items. Their taste in not only gourmet food but upscale attire became legendary. The local civic clubs hosted annual themed fashion shows around town and in the restaurant with sold-out tickets annually. Numerous accolades were given the gourmet restaurant including a spread in the March 1995 Southern Living Magazine and state distinction as business of the year.


     As for the building, Phil and Skipper worked hard to restore the aging structure by preserving the stamped tin ceilings and stripping paint from the original brick front to bring it back to its original glory. 


     With the passing of Phil Williams in 2021, Mize carefully contemplated the keepers of this exquisite place that occupied the lives of three generations of the Williams family. The town was delighted that brothers, Blair and Ethan Hensley of Brooksville purchased the business.


As their website states: 

“Coming from a family full of cooks, they have been in the kitchen for as long as they can remember.  Growing up, the brothers were fortunate enough to have their Granny Lewis live with them, who would regularly cook 3 meals a day the old-fashioned way. With their mother Larie, known for her long-lasting restaurant Mallie Kylas, the boys both started working in the restaurant industry at a young age. It was only a matter of time before they ventured out on their own. 

Ethan studied culinary art a NECI and was mentored by Chef Mike Lascola. Blair graduated from the University of West Alabama and then worked on a restaurant with incredible history in Brooksville called Farmer John’s bringing it back to life. Their Florida Cracker Kitchen opened in 2012 with wonderful growing success. In 2021, they took on another legacy, Dade City’s famed Lunch on Limoges.” 

  • 1855

    Oscar Nathaniel “O.N.” Williams was born in Bulloch County, Georgia O.N. moved to Florida and married Amanda “Belle” Tucker and lived initially in Orlando before moving to Dade City. He was a circuit preacher for 38 years and established 38 churches in various parts of the state. He represented Pasco County in the state legislature in 1915.

  • 1908

    William’s Department Store opened as a Racket Store by O.N. and his son, Robert. First store was in the Thrasher building about a block south of the current location (which later became the Florida Telephone company (Stop 54)). O.N.” created the business as a haberdashery of all nature of items. The second location was in the Nabors Jewelry Store building space on Griffin Block (Stop 35). A third location was at Pasco Avenue and South Seventh Street as Bob Williams purchased the stock of groceries from former owners, Dan Eiland and Jesse Mitchell and moved into the frame building. Although the grocery component did not last, they remained when George Dayton and Bob McCutcheon constructed a brick building at Pasco and Front Streets and leased it (later Huckabay’s Grocery; Stop 37-38).

  • 1910

    John Robert Alonzo (“JRA” known as Bob) Williams assumed sole control of the store.

  • 1922

    Legend has it that O.N. Williams traded an Oldsmobile convertible to C.F. Touchton, Sr. for the site of the present building on 7th Street.

  • 1922

    (December 7th) Ground-breaking occurred with contractors Hughes and Mobley completing the building on April 20, 1923. (On the day of the groundbreaking. O.N. was stricken with a stroke and died one week later.) At groundbreaking the Banner wrote, “The new store is one of the finest looking business rooms in the city. Deep plate glass show windows fronting on Cherry Street (former name of 7th Street) will be kept attractively dressed at all times.” (The original glass windows remain).

  • 1922

    Reverend Oscar “O.N.” Nathaniel Williams died. (He had been in ministry for 38 years and merchant for 14 years at the time of his death).

  • 1926

    Current brick building on 7th was constructed. Later, John Robert Alonzo William’s brother, Virgil Williams and wife, Virginia bought out his brother and took over William’s Department Store. Virgil and Virginia’s son, Phil Williams began working at Williams during his high school years.

  • 1965

    Williams was cited by Seventeen Magazine for youth merchandising and also by Playboy Magazine for “Man on Campus” section of the magazine.

  • 1966

    Phil Williams purchased the store from his parents.

  • 1967

    Phil Williams was elected President of the Dade City Chamber of Commerce.

  • 1968

    “Operated by the Williams family for 60 years, the company also opened a modern branch store in the Wildwood Shopping Center, 40 miles north of Dade City.” Robert Kondey from California was hired to manage the men’s department.

  • 1981

    Phil Williams and his partner, Skipper Mize opened a French-style café, known as “Lunch on Limoges’ as a component of the business and also opened “Pink Peacock” in Winter Haven. Lunch on Limoges was opened with festivities to commemorate a local reception for British Princess Diana’s wedding in London.

  • 1995

    Lunch on Limoges was featured in Southern Living Magazine (Lunch on Limoges realized a 20 percent jump in business following the glowing review in the Southern Living Magazine).

  • 1995

    Williams/Lunch on Limoges recognized as Florida Main Street Business of the Year and recognized by a visit from Florida Secretary of State, Sandra Moratham.

  • 2021

    Phil Williams passed away.

  • 2021

    Blair and Ethan Hensley of Brooksville purchased the restaurant, Lunch on Limoges which continued the Williams legacy as well as their own family history of restaurateurs from the Florida Cracker Kitchen.




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