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Farm Table Restaurant closes doors

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va.--The Farm Table Restaurant in South Charleston has closed and the building and equipment are for sale.

Mary Cole, who owned the restaurant with her husband, Ron, said the family couldn't pay as much attention to the business as needed after Mary's brother died in 2008 and the Coles' son became ill and died in 2009.

"I want to thank all of our patrons over the many years for their support," Mary said Monday in a darkened, empty dining room. The restaurant was shuttered on Thursday.

"It's like a death in the family," Mary said. "I don't feel like a failure but I have beat myself up pretty bad the last three years because I would come in and see things that needed done but we couldn't do them. We tried to stay open but were just going deeper in debt. I'm absolutely confident this could be a success in the hands of people who have the time to devote to it."

The $339,500 asking price includes the 4,200-square-foot building and all the equipment and fixtures "as is," plus a two-story rented house at the rear of the property. Tim Runyan, broker with Century 21 - Runyan & Associates of South Charleston, has the listing.

Mary said that during the restaurant's 26-year-run it served many celebrities, such as Rod Stewart, Kathy Mattea and Rick K. & the Allnighters - plus dozens of famous singers from the

'50s and '60s.

The restaurant was one of the city's most important social centers.

Customer Steve Hyre was saddened Monday when he walked up to the front door and saw the hand-written sign, "Closed until further notice!"

Hyre said he used to work just down the street and came into the Farm Table at least three times a week. The office moved but "I still grab a friend and stop by once a week," he said. "This is tough. It will be missed by a lot of people."

Asked if he was a member of the Farm Table's famous Liars' Table, Hyre said, "I applied for membership but they wouldn't let me in. They said I was over-qualified."

Mary said the restaurant never turned hungry people away, even if a customer couldn't pay. Just like the Country Junction Restaurant Mary's mother once operated on the West Side, "we always fed the hungry," Mary said. "Money wasn't important to me."

A hallway in the restaurant is filled with plaques and certificates from local ball teams and clubs supported by the business over the years.

Steven Keith, the Daily Mail's "Food Guy," noted in a 1997 review that the Farm Table was famous for serving up "those home-cooked meals that always make you feel warm inside: chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, roast beef, turkey and dressing, baked steak.

"The Farm Table has been a longtime favorite for local diners who know they can drop in anytime for quick, friendly service and large portions of deliciously simple food," Keith wrote.

The restaurant had a near-death experience in 1991 when it burned to the ground. It was subsequently rebuilt at the same location: the southwest corner of D Street and 5th Avenue.

Mary said that at its peak in the late 1990s, the restaurant was grossing $1.4 million a year, had a staff of 52, and was selling more than 15 pies a day. It was not uncommon for the restaurant to sell up to 60 pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said.

The restaurant was down to about 14 employees when it closed. Mary said she will greatly miss loyal employees like Tami Smith, Heather McNamara, Melvin Atkinson and Drema Burrell.

The business, at 419 D St., is one of several longtime landmark restaurants to recently close in the area. The Blossom Deli, at 904 Quarrier St. in downtown Charleston, closed on Sept. 4 after a 16-year run under the ownership of Bill Sohovich. The Southern Kitchen in Kanawha City closed in 2007 after more than 60 years.

South Charleston has seen numerous restaurants open during the last several years on Corridor G and in the area near the Mound, where the Farm Table is located. Bob Anderson, the city's business recruiter, said, "We hate to see them close. I think the new restaurants are having an impact on the old restaurants."

Runyan, the real estate broker, said the property is zoned commercial and could be purchased as a restaurant or for another use. A doctor has already expressed an interested in taking the space, he said.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

 


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