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Old gathering spot starts new life

Vicky's Center Cafe still has the horseshoe counter, but the makeover includes new decor and menu

CENTRAL POINT - The Old Center Cafe, long a gathering place for City Hall's most vocal rivals, is getting a new look, menu and name.

But two remnants of the past will remain: the beloved horseshoe counter and the 75-cent morning "coffee club" that has gathered around it for more than 10 years.

"The horseshoe counter was pretty much the one thing that didn't change," says the new owner, Vicky Buss of Gold Hill. "They (the regulars) probably would've started a riot if I had gotten rid of that."

Christened Vicky's Center Cafe, the restaurant reopened Tuesday after Buss installed new flooring, a drop ceiling and central heat, added a country theme to the decor, printed new menus and scrubbed and painted the walls.

"It was built in 1940. It needed the attention," Buss says. "Almost everything was still original."

For the past six years, the cafe was owned by Larry Thornton, a vocal opponent of City Hall who once led a failed recall attempt against three city officials. He sold the business in April, but the new owner closed the doors after only a few months.

For Buss, it meant another door opened.

During the 30 years she managed establishments such as Elmer's and the Bright Spot, Buss said her dream always had been to have her own restaurant. And the new place will be distinctly hers - all the way down to the specialty gourmet soups she will add to the cafe's traditional breakfasts and lunches.

Among other changes, Buss said, she plans to eventually replace the familiar, faded Coca-Cola sign on top of the building with a brighter green awning.

"We serve Pepsi here, not Coke. Besides, nobody ever sees that Coca-Cola sign anyway," she says. "Out with the old and in with the new, right?"

The new look is receiving favorable reviews from members of the coffee club, says Carol Fischer, a former City Council member and coffee club regular.

"It's completely different," Fischer says. "It's so bright and everything looks so nice."

She's pleased the horseshoe counter will remain, however.

"It's part of the place. It's been there since the very beginning."

"I liked it anyway," Buss says. "I didn't plan on getting rid of it after I first saw the place. It's part of the history."

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at.

Old gathering spot starts new life