Billy’s Italian Restaurant being sold to Chocolate Factory owners

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 18, 2015

Billy's Italian Restaurant owners Brady and Tyann Ellis, left, stand next to Robin and Billy Lieberman Thursday in the restaurant. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Billy’s Italian Restaurant owners Brady and Tyann Ellis, left, stand next to Robin and Billy Lieberman Thursday in the restaurant. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

On Halloween, Billy and Robin Lieberman will lock up Billy’s Italian Restaurant for the last time.

On Nov. 2, Brady and TyAnn Ellis will open the doors to their new restaurant.

The Ellises, who also own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, knew they wanted to branch out and take on another restaurant, and the Liebermans approached them about buying Billy’s.

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“It was important to me to keep it as close to the same as possible,” Billy said. “They’ll make changes as they see fit to make it better, but I would like for it to remain something that people like, and I know they’ll do that even better than I did.”

Brady said the opportunity was one he and his wife couldn’t pass up.

“For us this just makes sense,” he said. “We’re right next door, and we have a good idea of what they do, and now we’re learning how they do it.”

Billy started the restaurant nearly 15 years ago in June 2001.

“I had a restaurant just like this in 1976 in Maryland where I’m from,” he said. “I knew two things, casinos and restaurants. Since I didn’t want casinos anymore, I just decided to do the same thing that I had 39 years ago.”

The Ellises plan to keep the same name, which has become iconic in Vicksburg.

“Billy’s is Italian — Billy’s is me,” Billy said. “I felt like at the time when my kids were playing ball at Warren Central everyone knew them and me, so Billy’s was a name that would attract people that we knew.”

Brady said the same food and service people have come to expect from the restaurant will continue.

“We want to replicate what they’ve been perfecting for 15 years,” he said. “They’ve been building all of these products for 15 years, and people love it, and that’s what we want to piggyback off of.”

The Ellises have undergone a month-long training process with the Lieberman’s, during which they’ve learned some of the tricks of the trade.

“The training process has been key,” he said. “The first pizza I did took me a long time. It’s helped me to learn from someone who is really, really good at it.”

Billy said the timing is right, and having great young people like Brady and TyAnn taking over will only do good things for the restaurant.

“I’ve been doing this almost 15 years, and it’s time to turn it over to someone who’s younger,” he said. “I couldn’t have possibly found people more in tune to what we’re doing than them.”

As for what’s next, Lieberman said he and his wife aren’t ready for retirement just yet.

“We’re going to take four of our products chicken salad, meatballs, lasagna and sauce, and we’re going to wholesale them to grocery stores,” she said. “If it doesn’t go well I’m going to be coming back to Brady asking if he needs a busser.”

Lieberman said the products should be on shelves sometime next year and Corner Market and Kroger have agreed to partner with them.