Last week I learned that one of my favorite restaurants would be closing its doors.
Village Inn Pizza Parlor has been a fixture at 624 Old Hickory Blvd. in Jackson, Tennessee since it first opened in 1969. In the days before Domino’s and Pizza Hut began delivering pizzas to our doorsteps, kids from my generation in the 1970’s and 80’s went to Village Inn. When I read in the Jackson Sun that it would close on September 30, I knew I had the see the old place one more time.
Village Inn is just a year older than me. I remember how dark it used to be inside. Not scary dark; just dark with only the light from the Tiffany style lamps above the booths and tables illuminating the pizza slices in front of you. It was the place to have a birthday party and I went to lots of them as a kid. The first big screen television I remember was there, one of those front projection types. The pizzas were thin crust and handmade with generous toppings. Sometimes the crust would bubble and create a crispy void that was neat to bit into.
My family drove to Jackson to visit my parents and sisters and see my four-week-old nephew on Sunday. Before we left, we went to Village Inn one last time. The smell of pizza when we walked through the door brought back those memories. We sat in a booth and ordered a large pizza. I looked around the place; structurally it looked the same but the paint colors on the walls were different than I remembered. The darkness from my childhood had been illuminated with recessed lighting, but those distinctive Tiffany stained glass lamps with “Village Inn Pizza Parlor” in red letters were still there. There weren’t as many people there as I thought there would be in its final hour in business. Perhaps they had already been and taken their own memories with them.
The building will still be there and a restaurant–the Old Hickory Steakhouse–will be there in its place. But it won’t be Village Inn.
My wife asked me why I had never taken her there when we were dating in college. We spent many a night studying for exams at Dunkin‘ Donuts, but I never thought to take her next door for a slice of pizza. I suppose at the time it was a place I associated more with my childhood than a place for a date. I wasn’t too much into nostalgia at that point in my life. After I left home and came back to town, I would pass by it, thinking I should stop in sometime. But I never did.
There aren’t too many restaurants around anymore that are distinctively local and not a cookie-cutter franchise and have been around for close to 40 years. Village Inn was that kind of place in Jackson.
Like the three little pigs on the neon sign of The Hut on North Highland, it’s another icon from my childhood that is now gone.