When you think of the Halls Ferry Inn, you probably think of the well-known Florissant establishment that featured great pizza, home-style cooking and a relaxing, casual environment.
But thanks to Lozell Stiles, a Florissant business owner who has lived in town for more than 15 years, all of that has changed.
Stiles bought the New Halls Ferry Inn and reopened it as the new Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Café, choosing to include the original name in a nod to the restaurant that had been in the space for so many years. These days, the name has changed, along with the atmosphere, the menu and the ambiance, Stiles said.
While you’ll still find certain pizza traditions alive and well at the new Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Café, the similarities between the old restaurant and the new one end there.
Stiles said that he has recreated versions of some of the Halls Ferry Inn’s most popular pizzas for the Jazz Café’s menu because he wanted to provide restaurant patrons with something they were comfortable with at the New Halls Ferry Road eatery.
“We didn’t want to just take their menu, but we wanted to provide Florissant with something they were comfortable with, and the pizza stuck out the most,” Stiles said.
To prepare for its grand opening, the restaurant was reconstructed and several new amenities were added, he said.
“All of the décor is now a reflection of jazz,” Stiles said. “We have a lot of artwork, real acoustic guitars on the walls, even a lead guitar from the '70s that’s worth a lot of money.”
The restaurant features white tableclothes, elegant china and real glasses and silverware on the table.
“The ambiance is great,” Stiles said. “It’s really classy. Some people even feel underdressed when they come in.”
Stiles called the new Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Café a “semi-casual place.”
“A lot of ladies like to wear nice jeans and heels, for example,” he said. “It’s definitely a good place to bring a date. It’s jazzy like that.”
However, Stiles noted, it’s not necessarily a place to take the kids to dinner.
“We do accommodate kids before 7 p.m.,” he said. “But after 7, it’s adults only.”
On the Menu
Stiles said the Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Café features a diverse menu, including a wide variety of options to please most any palate.
“We have excellent tilapia served grilled or fried,” he said. “We’ve got a delicious New York strip steak that we cook to your preference.”
He said the restaurant is already becoming known for its butterfly shrimp.
“It’s really big shrimp and a large portion that seafood lovers really enjoy,” he said. “We also have toasted raviolis, chicken, sandwiches and soups and a lot more.”
Meet the Owner
Stiles, an entrepreneur for more than 15 years, said he has owned several businesses. He and his wife, Sonia, have three children, including two daughters, Aniyah, 11 and Mikiyah, 8, and one son, Lozell III, 9. All three kids are in the Hazelwood School District.
At just 39 years old, Stiles has an impressive business portfolio.
Stiles said he also owns several real estate investment properties, including both residential properties and commercial properties.
“The first company I owned was a general contracting company that I ran for about 10 years,” he said. “I also own a limo service called Unique Stiles Limo Service.”
He said that while the limo business and the restaurant are two completely separate ventures, he does offer transportation for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions that customers can arrange at the restaurant.
“We’re going to do winery trips as well,” Stiles said. “After the first of the year, we’re going to provide limo services from here (the Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Café) to the wineries and back.”
He said customers who sign up for winery trips will be treated to wine at the Halls Ferry Inn Jazz Club while they wait for their rides to the winery.
“We’re the only place between Alton and Florissant that provides this type of entertainment,” he said. “We have food and live, sit-down jazz, and that brings people in from a lot of places.”
He said he hopes to open a second location in West County soon.
Giving Back to the Community
Stiles said he and his family are interested in supporting the area’s youth, especially when it comes to the fine arts. In fact, he’s starting a scholarship fund for local college-bound fine arts students.
“We’re really focused on the fine arts, and we want to offer an annual scholarship starting in 2012,” he said. “We’ve invited high school jazz bands to come perform here on certain weeknights starting in January, and we're going to use some of the proceeds we generate those nights to help one worthy student at the end of the season.”
He said that he hopes that Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider, who has already been to the Jazz Café once, will return each year to present the scholarship to the chosen student.
“This is how we want to give back to the community,” he said. “We will have other culture-friendly things going on those nights, too.”
He said that he’s interested in helping kids do what they want to do.
“Jazz is a culture, and a lot of kids are into fine arts and music,” he said. “If we can offer them opportunities to perform here on weekdays, maybe it will encourage them to achieve academically, and then we can reward one of them for that with a scholarship.”
In fact, Stiles said he awarded an Alton student a vehicle to help her get to college and a $1,500 scholarship last year.
“I’m really committed to helping out the kids,” he said.
Sticking Around for the Long Haul
Stiles said the Jazz Café offers an elegant atmosphere for people to experience fun, culture-filled times.
“I always wanted to own a restaurant that had kind of a New York feel to it,” he said. “You see a lot of stuff when you’re traveling in the world, and my desire was to bring that New York, classy feel to the Florissant area.”
He said that business has been great so far, and that the restaurant has received a lot of positive reviews on both its food and its live entertainment.
“I hope the Florissant community will support us so we can be around for years to come, just like the Halls Ferry Inn was,” he said. “Even though we have a few kinks to work out, we have a wonderful place that we’re excited to share with the community.”