Wild Willie's, a new restaurant established by a University of Richmond alumna, has already attracted many diners since its opening in March.
The restaurant, operated by 2006 graduate Amanda Orrock, is located about 30 minutes away at 7140 Mechanicsville Turnpike in Mechanicsville. Wild Willie's is named after Orrock's six-month-old son, William. Pictures of William are featured on the right wall of the restaurant lobby under the words "Wild Willie."
"We wanted something very family friendly but also good for the bar side," Orrock said, although the bar is low-key. "We have a calm bar," she said. "There haven't been any fights."
Orrock had helped her boyfriend with another restaurant before, but she said she wanted to be closer to Richmond. She is originally from Mechanicsville and went to Atlee High School before attending the university to stay close to home. Opening a restaurant was not Orrock's plan coming out of college. An accounting major, she thought she would get a job at an accounting firm.
"I never thought about opening a restaurant," she said. But Orrock said she enjoyed being able to set her own schedule.
"It gives me the flexibility to see my son whenever I want to," she said.
Running the restaurant has been a good experience so far.
"It's fun and I enjoy it," she said. "I get to meet a lot of different people and we also have regulars. A lot of people come in after church and ask where William is. He has his own celebrity status now.
"Business picks up each and every week. If gas prices would hold, we'd do really well."
Orrock said a lot of effort and cleaning had to be done to get the restaurant the way she had wanted it. "It's fun to put a lot of effort into something and see it get in shape," she said.
The whole place was repainted with bright red, yellow, orange and lime-colored walls.
"We wanted it to be bright, to welcome people in," she said.
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The walls of the restaurant feature large, bright paintings and there are still spaces Orrock would like to fill with local art. If any students are interested in having their art displayed at Wild Willie's, they can contact Orrock at the restaurant.
The restaurant has two large rooms for smoking or nonsmoking parties, and a large room in the back where parents can let children play without disrupting other diners. Much larger than it appears from the outside, the restaurant can seat 170 people.
Orrock does all of her own work and said her accounting major had helped. Marketing has also helped her with advertising and promoting the restaurant. She said the best thing she had learned from college was tolerance.
Orrock's family helps at the restaurant. Her mother and boyfriend help with the cooking while her boyfriend's father hosts.
"[Working with family] makes sure things get done better, but then again it's family," Orrock said. "It can be stressful, but the quality is better. Everything's done the way you want it."
She has organized for Wild Willie's to host free poker on Wednesday nights and karaoke on Thursday nights for those 21 and over.
"Karaoke is funny because it's the people I went to high school with and the ones four years under me because they're 21 now," Orrock said.
Wild Willie's is open for lunch and dinner every day, and also serves breakfast on weekends. The restaurant has an a la carte menu with steak, chicken and seafood dishes. Orrock wanted the menu to be similar to Outback Steakhouse's offerings.
"It's like a chain steakhouse but not as expensive because it's like a Mom and Pop restaurant," she said. In the future, Orrock plans to open more restaurants in the area.
"It's just a matter of when," she said.
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