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ALACHUA – A two-story building on Alachua’s Main Street has been empty for some time. In the past it housed various restaurants and cuisines serving up Mexican, seafood, American, and bar-b-que.

Now Gallop-In-Gary's is bringing new life to the building in the form of a sandwich restaurant. Like the building itself, Gallop-In-Gary’s has also had several incarnations under the same name but in different places. Chef and owner Larry Greco originally had two restaurants in the area under that name. One location was in High Springs and the other in Alachua where Mi Apa is located. He later moved the High Springs location just over the Columbia County line on U.S. Highway 441.

But Greco also loved Alachua. “It’s a small town with a great community and friendly atmosphere, and I always wanted to reopen here,” Greco said.

Greco, originally from Florida, joined the Marines in the early 1970s where he served two tours in Vietnam. Afterward he went to California and served as a LAPD police officer, but knew he wanted something different. He had relatives back east and he moved to New York where he opened a restaurant and realized he had found his calling. He moved back to Florida and worked as a chef in several restaurants, including the Cordon Bleu in Miami, and he eventually opened his own restaurant in South Florida. After moving to Alachua County, he opened the Gallop-In-Gary's restaurants.

The restaurant's menu features 19 different sandwiches, all of which are much larger than normal, packed with the main ingredient. They feature a variety of meats and a vegetarian version. The restaurant also serves salads, homemade pastries and ice cream.

Referring to the sandwiches, Greco said, “We make them big because I feel that people should get their money’s worth. It can cost $50 to $75 for a family of four to go out. Especially in these tough economic times you need to make it affordable if you want people to come out to eat. None of my sandwiches are more $12.”

“With rising food costs, I basically break even on expensive meats like roast beef,” Greco said. “But it’s worth it to establish repeat customers that come for a great meal at a good price.”

Greco can help keep costs down because Gallop-In-Gary's is a totally family run business. His wife, daughter and son-in-law are currently his only employees. “If the economy improves and business warrants it, I will hire more staff, but for now this is it,” he said.

Currently, Greco is only using the first floor of the building, which helps keep utilities down and limits liabilities. “The upstairs is more of a bar setting, and I don't want to get into beer and wine sales. I have enough to work with and am geared more toward a family atmosphere,” Greco said.

Customers will be treated with music from an old 1960s jukebox in one room, and Greco is waiting on an old rolltop player piano for the other dining area. “I want people to feel comfortable and enjoy their meal. Down the road, in maybe six months I want to expand the menu with a seafood buffet on Friday evenings and a country buffet on Saturday and include musicians and bands upstairs on the patio,” he said.

Gallop-In-Gary’s opened on June 1 and is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. They offer both dine in and take out as well as delivery. To order for pickup call 352-660-3009.

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