Sluggish economy impacts downtown restaurant’s closing

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 09:09 PM

Greenway’s Authentic Charcoal Grill, 200 South Garnett Street in Henderson, has closed.

Co-owners Jody Pernell and her father, Tommy Greenway, opened at the location in January 2012 after leaving their long-time ownership of Middleburg Steak House. That eatery had attracted customers from a widespread area for 35 years, beginning in 1976 when Greenway and his father, Irvin, started the business in a building built during the 1930s as a New Deal project.

Pernell said Greenway’s suffered from the economic slump that has hit Henderson and the nation over the past few years.

It is the second of two locally owned restaurants in three months to close. Carver’s ended more than a half-century of business when it closed its Raleigh Road location in July.

“The economy is so bad,” Pernell said, and expressed regret at closing the Henderson restaurant. “We loved it. We love our customers and the friends we’ve made here in a couple of years.”

She said she was unsure of plans for the future and is considering a move into sales.

The closing will affect about 25 employees, four of whom were full-time.

One long-time employee was Ashley Hill. She started with the Greenways at the Middleburg Steak House 11 years ago and came with them when they brought their culinary skills to downtown Henderson, serving as assistant manager of Greenway’s. Like Pernell, she said her plans for the future are uncertain.

Food service has been offered at the corner or Garnett and Breckenridge streets since the late 1990s, when it opened as the Wildflower Cafe under the ownership of Bill and Donnie Coffey.

That came to an end in January 2005, when the Coffeys closed.

The hiatus didn’t last long. In April of that year, Patricia Newhouse re-opened it with only a few changes in decor and menu. Donnie Coffey continued as general manager and executive chef. Newhouse began operating her catering business, Gray’s Gourmet, from the Wildflower location.

But in January 2009, Newhouse decided to close the restaurant. At the time, she said the lagging economy made it economically impossible for her to continue. She also discontinued her catering business.

Before the Greenways took over, there were two short-lived efforts to revive the location as an eatery.

The Bullpen Sports Bar & Grill moved in but never seemed to gain the loyalty of downtown diners.

Soon after it closed, George Lawson opened the dining spot, renamed it the Jessica Charles Restaurant, and began what turned out to be a futile effort to attract downtown workers and residents of the second-story apartments on Garnett Street. A second purpose of Jessica Charles Restaurant was to offer jobs to unemployed workers with food service experience, a direction he pursued collaboratively with the Work First program of the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce.

That effort was also short-lived, providing the opening that brought in Pernell and her father.

Donald Matthews, of Brassfield Realty in Franklinton, represents the building’s owner, Mike Noel of Andalusia, Ala. Matthews said they will continue to try to lease the property as a restaurant. He has one person who is interested, he said, but nothing has been confirmed.


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