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Bill's Cafe Naples

Bill Salley is walking away from his namesake cafe in Naples next week for the last time. 

Bill’s Cafe, 947 Third Ave. N., is closing at the end of this month. The news was announced Tuesday morning on the local restaurant’s Facebook page. Well, the time has come. Come in and get the best BLT in Naples for the very last time. Bill’s Cafe Naples will be closing its doors on March 31st. Thank you to all who have supported us,” according to the post. 

Although his name remains on the cafe, Salley doesn’t actually own the restaurant anymore but he has been coming in Mondays and Tuesdays to man the grill for Sean and Denise Murray, the brother and sister to whom he sold the cafe in May 2021. 

“They kept the name and my goodwill and probably 90% of my menu,” said Salley who officially retired last June. “Retirement is not always what it’s cracked up to be,” he said. 

So, Salley has enjoyed his guest spots to create comfort food such as pancakes, sausage gravy, BLTs, hot brown and burgers. 

When Salley took over the restaurant in 2014 he had hoped to have it at least 10 years. He didn’t make the full decade, but he cooked up memories to last much longer. His retro food favorites hot off the griddle are legendary for breakfast and lunch. 

Before opening Bill’s Cafe, Salley worked at a string of former local restaurants in the 1970s and ‘80s, including Brennan’s Grub & Grog, Piccadilly Pub and the Whale’s Tail. “Been at it all my life,” said Salley, 65, a longtime Naples resident. Bill’s space on Third Avenue previously had been Richie’s Restaurant for about 10 years. 

Bill’s Cafe in Naples probably would have closed in 2020 but the generosity of an anonymous donor saved the local diner for a couple of years. A Naples resident and one of Bill’s breakfast regulars, gave the cafe about $40,000 throughout the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic to help Bill keep his cafe doors open. 

Salley himself also is known for regularly giving back as well. He fed a homeless woman daily who stopped by the café for a free breakfast. Bill’s generosity went viral when news about his generosity reached social media circles online and the cafe picked up many more local fans.  

Looking back Tuesday, Salley said he thoroughly enjoyed the restaurant business. He said he is proud of what he built and sad to see it go. 

“I loved being a chef. It’s been a great career,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve worked two lifetimes. I feel I deserve retirement. I’ll probably do something anyhow. You can’t sit around and do nothing.” 

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