If you're looking for a local way to lift your spirits, visit the Westwood Fountain in Richmond. Just ask any of the patrons of the little diner inside Westwood Pharmacy on Patterson Ave. They've likely been going there for years.
Whether you're looking for something new or familiar, there is something for everyone; from regular diner-style menu items to quiches, gyros, homemade soups and about a dozen different daily specials. Little tweaks to familiar favorites are also found, like rye on a club, homemade dressings, or pancakes turned into Mickey Mouse for the kids.
Faissal Aridi took ownership of Westwood Fountain a few years after moving here from Lebanon. While he never really wanted to be a chef, he did want to be self-employed. His father was a baker, and Faissal grew helping out in the kitchen. After moving here, he was mentored by local chefs and entrepreneurs. Between the mentorship of others and years of hard work, he learned all that he could. "I experimented a lot," he says.
In 1998, Westwood Fountain was a single row of tables and a counter, with only a grill and a hood behind the counter. At the time, Faissal only had one other employee, Dee. Between Faissal, his wife, Manal, and Dee, they got the diner up and running. His two kids grew up in the restaurant, later waiting tables as teenagers. With good food and good service, word got around in the community.
What once started as a tiny little diner has now expanded to over 70 seats and stays packed through breakfast and lunch. Faissal wishes that he could expand even more.
Since that time, he has continued to look for the best and hires accordingly. Services have also expanded to take out, online ordering, a grab-and-go fridge with take-home meals, catering services, and connections to Door Dash and Grub Hub.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Faissal says he gets involved in everything he can, whether in the community or business functions. "Listen to the community you're in and learn how to best serve them. You won't be in business without support from the people you serve, so be sure to foster positive relationships with the community, and always keep them in mind. "
If you listen to his interview on NPR last year or read the write-up in Richmond Magazine, you'll see he and his staff are known for just that — loving on their customers. They often have special orders waiting for their regulars before they even walk through the doors.
When asked what has meant the most about serving his community, Faissal says, "I've had some customers who have been coming here four or five times a week for twenty years, pre-COVID of course. Some of them were kids when they used to come with their families, and now they're grown up and bring their own kids here. It means a lot to know that people love Westwood enough that it becomes part of their lives."
Westwood Diner just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. At the beginning of the pandemic, the business dropped by as much as 95%, and they were scared they might have to close, but right now, they are doing alright as long as they can keep the momentum going with the support of their customers.
"This has been a really tough time for restaurants and small businesses, and we're working extra hard to keep our doors open. We're trying to recover and rebuild after the last few months, and our customers have been so supportive, but we still have a long way to go," Faissal says.
Whether you're craving something new to take home for dinner or looking for a way to pay it forward this year, supporting a local business like Westwood Fountain goes farther than you could imagine. And with the holidays approaching, gift cards always make great gifts.
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TheBuckStaysHere.com, powered by Chesapeake Bank, is a local online resource of more than 400 small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Membership is FREE, so register your business or nonprofit today. Now, more than ever, it’s essential to support local small businesses. They are the backbone of our economy. You can help them survive and thrive by buying gifts, dining, and using local establishments’ services. So, please, put “helping our local economy” on your Christmas list.