The Village Inn (VI) has long been a cherished spot for the Gambier community where students and locals convene over good food and drinks to catch up or share a laugh. In November, the restaurant shifted leadership from longtime owners Margaret Lewis and Joel Gunderson to Gambier native Josh Smith. While the face of the business may have switched, Smith plans on continuing business as usual in order to maintain tradition and preserve the same Village Inn people know and love.
Born and bred in Gambier, Smith is no stranger to the VI. After a six-year stint in Columbus for college, Smith returned to Gambier, where he frequented the restaurant with his wife and kids. Prior to assuming ownership, Smith had no formal working ties to the VI. Discussions with the previous owners about selling began in early November of 2022 and have since led to Smith’s takeover. “Margaret, Joel and I started talking because I heard that they were kicking around the idea of selling the place, and everything just snowballed from there,” Smith said.
As was the case with the Village Market, which has also changed ownership during the 2022-23 year, there were concerns about the effects that a shift in leadership could have on the way the restaurant is run. Smith plans to keep running the VI as his predecessors did, with minimal changes to the menu and overall management style. Down the road, Smith will consider adding more weekend specials to the menu, but for now things will remain much the same as they have been. “It’s a pretty smooth operating business,” he said. “We have really great employees.”
Smith also hopes to bring on more student employees who are looking to have an on-campus job. There are currently two students who work at the VI, and Smith is open to hiring more. Students make up a significant portion of the VI’s customers, particularly on Wednesday trivia nights, which Smith assured will continue on as usual.