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Did You Know… that Winchester’s was started in an abandoned print shop?

Did you know… that Winchester's was started in an abandoned print shop? A long-abandoned building turned into a much-loved staple in the heart of downtown Ventura. Here's the story of how Winchester's Grill & Saloon came to be.

by Maryann Ridini Spencer
Winchesters Grill front

It started with an abandoned building

Over the past decades, the face of Main Street in Ventura has changed dramatically. Many of the businesses that now occupy quaint, historic and restored storefronts along the bustling boulevard were once vacant buildings with facades that weren’t very enticing or inviting.

In 1996, one of those abandoned buildings was an old print shop that sat empty for many years until a few restaurant entrepreneurs, ascertaining the future potential in the area, jumped out of their saddles, laid down their hats, and purchased the building that now houses the what has become the much-loved staple in the heart of downtown Ventura, Winchester’s Grill & Saloon. “People thought we were a little crazy to come in and purchase the building for a restaurant,” said JR Ford, one of Winchester’s owners. “In fact, when we opened our doors nearly 16 years ago on May 21, 1997, there were only a handful of other eateries in the area.”

One of the primary reasons the owners of Winchester’s put their roots down on Main Street had to do with the commitment the City of Ventura made to a downtown beautification project in 1996. “The city replanted trees and fixed the sidewalks,” said JR. “Then when the deal was signed with Century Theatres, we knew downtown Ventura was going to be the start of something really wonderful.”

Winchesters Grill inside

An immediate hit with the locals

Almost immediately upon opening, Winchester’s became a favorite haunt for locals and visitors alike. Known for their sumptuous Certified Angus Beef ™ steaks, delicious chicken and seafood as well as their exotic meats such as buffalo, elk, lamb and venison, Winchester’s boasts an Old West ambiance. The walls are decorated with paintings and photographs of well-loved Hollywood cowboys and the real deals amongst western paraphernalia and antiques.

In 2004, in order to expand their dining venue, owners JR and Sam Book, purchased a section of the parking area land adjacent to the venue and built a patio area that now seats approximately 60 patrons. “We tell our customers, to come on in and unleash their inner cowboy and cowgirl,” continued JR. “Walk in, sit down and we’ll take care of the rest.” Known primarily as a steak house, Winchester’s always has great fresh fish selections from Cedar Planked Salmon to Ahi Tuna. At the impressive mahogany bar, over 40 draft beers are available to quench any thirst.

Little folks can also enjoy a delicious, healthy menu as Winchester’s is involved with Ventura County’s Good For Kids Campaign, a partnership with local restaurants to make healthy options available to kids in restaurants throughout the county (First5Ventura.org).

Winchester’s continues to give back to our community. For example, through their partnership with Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project, they played a critical role in the distribution of food to the local community.

Winchester’s Grill & Saloon
632 E Main Street Ventura, CA 93001
(805) 653-7446

Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Thursday: 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday: 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm

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Robert L Holmes April 30, 2013 - 6:16 pm

Now if the City of Ventura could only deal with the growing number of aggresive homeless people hassling customers downtown!

Kristen Snyder Richardson April 30, 2013 - 6:37 pm

That's the truth! My in laws have a store on Main Street… They're just a few store down from the Hamilton hotel entrance… They always have problems…

Sam Benner April 30, 2013 - 7:55 pm

This article celebrating a long time staple in downtown doesn't seem like the right place to address the homeless issue. I recommend supporting some of the local organizations like Project Understanding and Turning Point Foundation as they work tirelessly alongside the Downtown Ventura Organization to effect real change downtown.

Sam Benner April 30, 2013 - 7:57 pm

I feel like Winchester's has been the backdrop to so many memories I've had growing up and now it is where we go hang as a family. Hats off to JR and Sam for their longevity in downtown and best wishes for continued success!

Todd Everett October 23, 2013 - 10:06 am

Did he really say “eateries”?


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