Click photo to enlarge
JC Jim and his wife Winkee Venhaus, of Byron, stand in front of their restaurant, the Byron Inn Cafe, in Byron, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

BYRON -- Mother and daughter Susan and Lura Milner were happy to have the chance to get together at their favorite hometown cafe this weekend. For years Susan has been driving out from Manteca and Lura from Brentwood to meet in between at the Bryon Inn Café to spend some time catching up. "I love the hometown feel," Susan Milner said. "We always run into someone we know."

The Byron Inn Café reopened last week after being closed for remodeling after a car hit the wall and damaged the kitchen -- only 61 days after it had been reopened the first time. "That was just one of several problems that have caused us to close down for a while," said owner James "JC" Venhaus.

Venhaus and his wife, Winkee, purchased the cafe property in 1981 with plans to remodel the cafe, which at that time he said was in really poor shape.

"The place was dark and just didn't flow right," he said. "So we moved the kitchen around added windows. We reopened in 1984."

The Venhauses ran the restaurant for only one year and then leased out the building for many years. "I like rehab historic buildings and bring new businesses to them and then lease them to someone else to take over," Venhaus said.

Over the years Venhaus has done the same successfully with buildings in both Concord and Pittsburg. The Byron Inn Café property, however, became a problem in 2011 when Venhaus received a call from the county health department and was told that the Café building was in need of an overhaul and that the present lease had too many health code violations.

That problem ended with Venhaus having to evict the tenant and restart the restoration efforts on the building again. Venhaus said that he was able to reopen the cafe himself in July of 2011.

"On Dec. 10, 2011, we had a suspicious fire that wound up closing us down again," he said.

It took a year and a half to clean up the problems the fire caused only to have to close again shortly afterward. Venhaus said that all kinds of other problems occurred over that time, including someone taking an advertisement out that said he would purchase everyone who came in a free breakfast or lunch and that he was closing and people could take whatever they wanted.

"There were 250 people in my parking lot looking for their free meal that morning," Venhaus said.

The person who drove his car into Venhaus' building was eventually caught. However, Venhaus believes that all the negative things that have happened over the past few years are connected. He is even offering a reward of $10,000 for information, arrest and conviction of whoever set the fire back in 2011.

In the meantime, Venhaus is continuing on. "Every time we open we have a better menu," Venhaus said. "I've got two of the best chefs there are."

Venhaus said his breakfast and lunch menus come with big meals, including Texas bread French toast and full cuts of prime rib and pork.

The restaurant, at 16141 Byron Highway in Byron, is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Reach Roni Gehlke at festfan@comcast.net.