BRANDON — An iconic Brandon eatery will rise from the ashes and reopen later this year under new ownership.
Ben's Family Restaurant, opened in 1981 at 704 E Brandon Blvd., was the oldest restaurant in Brandon until an attic fire caused $900,000 in damage and drove the restaurant out of business in May 2014.
Original owner and founder Ben Crisler, who passed away at the age of 76 after a heart attack in August 2014, chose Brandon for the restaurant's location because of "the smallness, the country feel of it," he once told the Tampa Bay Times.
Crisler and his family, who ran the fiercely-loved restaurant for nearly 25 years before selling it in 2005, protected its small-town feel by banning cell phone use inside. Crisler survived the increasing number of chains in the area by stressing four tenets: quality, consistency, service and cleanliness.
The devastating fire put dozens of employees out of work, and the classic restaurant's many regulars mourned its loss on social media. Patrons of the popular diner lamented its loss on Facebook and other social networks back then. It particularly impacted the Greater Brandon Kiwanis Club, which had met every Thursday morning at Ben's for more than five years.
Fernandezign Construction of Dover was awarded the nearly-$465,000 contract to rebuild the restaurant.
"The owners are going to keep the same type of foods and the same look," said contractor Jorge Fernandez, who hopes to finish up the project in 6-7 months.
They also will honor Crisler's memory with a new name, Ben's Family Diner; here's hoping they'll be able to give the residents of Brandon a brand new place to sit back and remember the good old days.