WINCHESTER — Jo Anna Clowser DiLisio hasn’t given up on her dream to keep the Snow White Grill a mainstay in Winchester’s downtown area. And she hopes to reopen the iconic mini-burger restaurant in early June.
Snow White Grill, located on the Loudoun Street Mall, closed in October to deal with some staffing and renovation issues. Then the coronavirus hit, which pushed plans back a little further.
But DiLisio said things are in order to reopen in the coming weeks.
“We’re on the last leg of finishing,” she said Friday. “I’m waiting to get my [kitchen exhaust] hood inspected, and then we’ll be ready.”
DiLisio purchased the property in November of 2017 for $135,000 after the restaurant was initially advertised for $399,500.
It was in “dire need” of repairs, she said — “not structural, but we painted and patched a lot. The city wanted to condemn the building.”
“It was devastating what I walked into, but something kept telling me to go after it,” she said.
That “something” was the memory of her father, who passed away at the age of 83 in 2015.
DiLisio grew up in the Winchester area and attended James Wood High School when it was what is now the middle school on Amherst Street.
She recalled fondly the days when she would get out of school and venture down to the Snow White Grill to meet her dad. He would buy her a soda and go about his evening work.
“I was always in good hands there,” she remembered.
She’d hang out at the popular spot, maybe go catch a movie and wait for her dad to return for their traditional meal of mini burgers, fries and a milk shake.
“I did that almost every night,” she said.
Though she later moved out of state, she found her way back to Winchester, where she said her family has had multiple members work for the city over the years.
Her roots, she said, have always been in Winchester. And at Snow White Grill.
When she purchased the Snow White Grill, she was determined to return it to the icon in her memories.
“I have no fear, nor am I going to let somebody knock me down,” she said in a 2017 interview with The Winchester Star. “I just feel like I’m 10 feet tall and bulletproof.”
Snow White Grill opened at 159 N. Loudoun St. in January of 1949, then operated by J.C. Hall. It was sold in 1986 to David Grim, who owned the business until 2006. It then had several other owners. DiLisio eventually bought it.
With next month’s reopening, DiLisio wants to give it her best shot to honor her father’s memory.
Pictures of DiLisio’s father dot the eatery’s walls.
“He’s all over the building,” she said.
Since purchasing the Snow White Grill, DiLisio said she’s put $20,000 of her own money into the restaurant to fix it up and has no plans of selling it.
She said the reopened Snow White Grill will stay true to its original menu.
When customers come in, she wants them to go down memory lane, like she does every day.