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La Bella reopens doors in memory of past owner

Posted on February 4, 2020

Derrick Watts and his wife cut the ribbon to officially open La Bella after its remodel Feb. 3, 2020. Watts said the remodel was finished at about 3 a.m. the same day.

Donned in a red “La Bella” T-shirt with the original logo from 1986 and the name “Jim,” Derrick Watts, along with his wife Tara and the La Bella family, cut the red ribbon to officially reopen the restaurant’s doors Monday morning.

Now working toward its 35th year, La Bella, formerly La Bella Gourmet Gifts and Delicatessen, has a new owner and new look — however, Watts, the Robinson family and the employees behind the counters will tell you it’s the same, loving establishment underneath.

The same morning, Jim Robinson, the original owner of La Bella and the man who opened the business on West Hillsboro in August 1986, died in his sleep.

Before the ribbon was cut, Watts said the day was for Robinson — a memorial and a celebration rolled into one.

“It was his passion and now it’s Derrick’s,” Jim’s son Clay Robinson said. “The torch couldn’t have been passed to a more deserving candidate.”

The door’s opening, though, wasn’t the only thing done in memory of Jim: the original booths, tables and chair are all still in use, as well as the back counters and cabinets for fudge and other goodies.

The only real additions to the restaurant are the floors, the coverings for the booths, the couches and bars, as well as Watts’ mom’s homemade mac ‘n’ cheese recipe. It’s a perfect merge of both Jim and Watts’ visions for La Bella.

“I’ve loved this place since I walked in,” he said.

Jim announced in a Nov. 18 Facebook post the restaurant would transition to Watts’ care. His ownership officially began Dec. 1.

Since then, Watts, his wife, the Robinsons and the La Bella family worked through the transition and remodel. Watts said he and Tara finished everything Monday at 3 a.m.

Except for, he said, the photos on the west side wall, showing La Bella history.

Watts said La Bella has always been a family business and will continue to be family-run.

“We will continue to do so in any way we can,” Watts said. “im has always, always, always treated me like another son. Clay has always treated me like a brother, Lacy has always treated me like a brother.”