Local ad man bringing Lynchburg’s Texas Inn diner to Richmond

texas inn building Cropped

The decades-old diner is open late-night and is now inbound to Richmond. (Courtesy Texas Inn social media)

Five years after reluctantly leaping into the restaurant business, a local ad man has his Lynchburg diner chain on the move to Richmond.

Madison+Main founder David Saunders is preparing to open an outpost of the Texas Inn at an undisclosed location in the city of Richmond. 

The 88-year-old restaurant currently has two locations in Lynchburg and one in Harrisonburg, where it serves diner and American breakfast staples. Its signature item, Saunders said, is the Cheesy Western, which is a smashed cheeseburger topped with the Texas Inn’s relish and diced onions. 

Saunders said he’s working on an asset purchase of an existing restaurant in the city that he’ll convert into a Texas Inn, but that he couldn’t yet disclose the location.

He said it’s near the intersection of West Broad Street and North Arthur Ashe Boulevard, “smack dab in the middle of probably the largest population center” in the city limits. 

Despite its name, the Texas Inn’s roots lie in the Midwest and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was founded in 1927 as the Texas Tavern in Indiana before moving to Roanoke two years later. It would later relocate to Lynchburg and rebrand to Texas Inn, though Saunders said many locals simply call it the T-Room. 

A Lynchburg native himself, Saunders said he and his family grew up going to the restaurant. 

texas inn david saunders Cropped 1

David Saunders at the counter at Texas Inn.

“My original involvement was sitting on one of those stools when I was 5 years old,” he said. “Over the years I’ve just had a love affair for this place.”

In the 1990s, Saunders left Virginia for Los Angeles to start his career in the advertising business. Such was his love for the Texas Inn that, when he and his family moved back to Richmond after about a decade in L.A., he beelined for a Cheesy Western. 

“The first day I’m here I told my wife, ‘I’m going out for lunch. I’ll be back in four hours,’” Saunders said. 

“She said, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘Oh trust me.’ So I went out and I bought like 30 bucks worth of food, put it in a cooler and I brought it back.”

In 2018, Saunders came across a Craigslist post, advertising the Texas Inn as for sale. Saunders initially tried to help the former owners find a buyer or investors, but nothing panned out.

He eventually opted to buy the diner, himself. At the time it had only a pair of locations in Lynchburg.

“That’s how I reluctantly got into the restaurant business,” Saunders said. 

Once the deal closed, Saunders closed the restaurants for a few days to paint, deep-clean and replace much of the kitchen equipment. He also set up a new website for the Texas Inn and restocked the merchandise shelves. 

He wanted to return the Texas Inn to its former glory, and he started by giving himself a goal that he hoped to reach in his first 90 days as a restaurant owner. 

“I said, ‘Come hell or high water, this company is going to make a profit,” Saunders said. “And we did. We made $4 in profit.”

He stuck with it, and growth followed. During the pandemic the Texas Inn began selling on Goldbelly, an online marketplace that allows restaurants to ship their menu items around the country, and in 2022 he opened the Harrisonburg location. 

Saunders, who continues his day-to-day with Madison+Main, said he’s been thinking about bringing the Texas Inn to Richmond since the day he bought it. “If I want a Cheesy Western, I have to drive two hours west,” he explains, but it wasn’t until this year that he’s really moved toward taking the plunge. 

Last week he launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Texas Inn’s Richmond expansion via Honeycomb Credit and quickly raised $115,000 of a targeted $120,000. Backers on Honeycomb are repaid over a three-year period. Saunders added that the crowdfunding campaign is for about half of the $250,000 needed to open in Richmond. 

He’s working with Sperity Real Estate Ventures’ Nathan Hughes on the pending deal, which could close in coming weeks. 

The Texas Inn’s menu has few items that clear $10; its hot dogs cost around $4 and the Cheesy Western is $5.50. Saunders said the establishment is “a dinosaur in the age of 2024,” and that in his view there aren’t many places like it anymore.

“The most valuable part about the whole business is the loyalty of the customers and this love of nostalgia,” Saunders said. “It’s been a labor of love, and now my mission is to spread the love.”

POSTED IN Restaurants

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Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
22 days ago

How cool! I love when old time places like this have continued success! Can Mr. Saunders consider a location down here in Colonial Heights? Would love to have more breakfast options here that don’t involve fast food.

Jack Berry
Jack Berry
22 days ago

Best news I’ve heard in a long time. Ready for a cheesy western, bowl all the way, a Dr. Pepper, a hot all the way for dessert, and a pint of relish to take home. Any time I’m within 50 miles of Lynchburg I go to the Texas Tavern. The only time they ever disappointed is when they added french fries to the menu.

Chris Hutter
Chris Hutter
22 days ago
Reply to  Jack Berry

Texas Tavern is in Roanoke though. This is the Texas Inn.

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
22 days ago
Reply to  Jack Berry

….. I’m struggling to understand your disdain for the french fry.

Coleen Butler Rodriguez
Coleen Butler Rodriguez
22 days ago

I was there about 30 years ago with a group of rowdy friends on a toad trip to Lynchburg. Still remember it. Welcome to Richmond!

Al Bosdell
Al Bosdell
22 days ago

I cannot wait for the T-Room to get here. I’ll be there opening day. I get to Lynchburg several times a year and always find my way to the Texas Inn.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
22 days ago

Has David Saunders read about the meals tax fiasco in Richmond? Why not open outside the city limits, or at least talk to some of the restaurant owners who are battling with the city over their meals tax bills?

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
22 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Colonial Heights welcomes him lol.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
22 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

rooting for the demise of the capital of virginia is so cool.

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
22 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

Maybe if the city wasn’t run by the woke mob it would have a better shot.

Jay Emory
Jay Emory
21 days ago
Reply to  Zach Rugar

Because Republican-run governments never have any issues. Brilliant comment, really.

David Adler
David Adler
22 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Welcome in Henrico!

Brett Hunnicutt
Brett Hunnicutt
22 days ago

Oh wow! I work near this intersection. I never would have dreamed of this happening. I’m a third generation Texas Tavern fan. My dad started taking me in the early 80s. I still go almost every time I drive through Roanoke.

Jay Emory
Jay Emory
21 days ago

Is the Texas Tavern the same as the Texas Inn? Yours is the second comment I’ve seen mention the Texas Tavern but I’m not familiar enough to know if it’s the same. It sounds like the establishment being brought to RVA is currently in Lynchburg and Harrisonburg. Roanoke isn’t mentioned.

scott shaffner
scott shaffner
22 days ago

Grew up in Roanoke eating at the Texas Tavern. Can’t wait to have two hot withs, a bowl with and a Coke. Got a friend that brings me chile every month when he goes to Roanoke. Please leave the sissy sauce behind the counter. As Clint Eastwood says Nobody. I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog. Looking forward to the day they open.

Pam Perkins
Pam Perkins
22 days ago

I grew up in the Lynchburg area in the 60’s-70’s and the T Room was the place to go to get that Cheesy Western. Loving that it is coming to Richmond.

Paul Gillam
Paul Gillam
22 days ago

Oh wow! Very late 1960s early 1070s growing up around Lynchburg my neighborhood gang went to the Texas Tavern/Inn down on Main Street in Lynchburg. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Richmond!
“We seat 100. Ten at a time” 👏

Jackie Hill
Jackie Hill
22 days ago

My husband’s bachelor party was here in 1970! They allowed them to bring Cold Duck! Now our grandsons all like to go with Papa to the T Room as soon as they get here. We love the new gift shop!

Jill Gayle
Jill Gayle
22 days ago

Grew up in L-burg and there are no substitutes for the T. (Although I always thought it was the “Tea Room”.) Cheesy western, two hots all the way and a bowl, going. Was always a great to sit at the counter…and just take it all in.

David Adler
David Adler
22 days ago

I worked a construction job one time in Lynchburg and the locals took us there for dinner one night – unforgettable!

Last edited 22 days ago by David Adler
Peter James
Peter James
21 days ago

Excited to see this coming to the River City. Wishing Mr. Saunders all the very best for great success. I’m sure it will be a very popular eatery – and how nice it will be to not have to schlep two hours each way to grab a Cheesy Western, some chili, hot dogs or their world-famous relish.

Go get ’em, Mr. Saunders!

Borden Edgerton
Borden Edgerton
21 days ago

I love to hear that the T-Room is coming, and hope David can staff the place with an equally colorful cast of characters. In the Lynchburg location, Debbie is legendary and half the reason why I will always stop by for two sleezies walkin’ before heading back to Richmond.

David McGrann
David McGrann
21 days ago

I have no doubt that the Lynchburg location pictured is in an old renovated Pure Oil service station. I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve visited good restaurants in several cities also located in old Pure stations.

Sally Pope Wolfe
Sally Pope Wolfe
19 days ago

A cheesy western with a James River!