North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

October 31, 2012

Local restaurants open, close amid tough economy

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

— The restaurant businesses is tough enough to start with, and in the current economy it’s even tougher. But that doesn’t stop prospective restauranteurs from trying, even as some close their doors.

Two new restaurants are just weeks away from opening in Gardendale and another in Fultondale, even as a highly-anticipated eatery shut down after just six months in business.

Work is progressing in Gardendale on a new Dairy Queen restaurant, located on Fieldstown Road where a Shell gas station once stood. About a block away, the new Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant is nearing completion; it is located on Mt. Olive Road and is the first part of the new City Center development.

And in Fultondale, On Tap Sports Cafe is closing in on its opening date. That store, the fourth for the locally-owned company, is located on Walker Chapel Road adjacent to the Comfort Suites motel. It is part of a general rehabilitation of an area which was damaged by the April 2011 tornado.

The casualty is Kairos Kafe, which closed last week after owner James K. Jones posted a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Kairos had been open since April; that opening had been delayed by additional work needed to bring the building — formerly the longtime Main Street home of Max’s Cafeteria — up to good repair. Jones said that effort took 13 months and $250,000.

“Business was good the first month or two, but we got hit real hard all at one time,” Jones said. “The only advertising we did [for the opening] was a Facebook post, and we were swamped — we had a really hard opening when we wanted a soft one. It wasn’t the quality and speed of food we were used to. We were just buried and overwhelmed, and we may have let some people down.”

The arrival of Kairos had been eagerly awaited, especially considering the success of Jones’ original

location on the south edge of downtown Birmingham. The location, which shares space with a church and occupies the building that housed local barbecue legend Ollie’s, has been a favorite of diners for its different takes on Southern foods.

The Gardendale location struggled to find its way after a hectic first six weeks.

“If we had done it over again, we’d have done a smaller place,” Jones said. “Now we’re refocusing on Birmingham and catering. As for Gardendale, we did it, we tried it, people said they wanted it. For me, it was a nightmare from day one, trying to run both locations.”

Jones still lives in Gardendale, after moving there just before the opening.

Gardendale’s new Dairy Queen is setting up shop next door to where the city’s original DQ franchise stood for years. That store dropped its Dairy Queen franchise about two years ago and operated independently as G’Daddy’s, then closed last year. The building now is home to ServiceFirst Credit Union.

The new restaurant is called DQ Grill & Chill — the national chain largely dropped the Dairy Queen moniker about a decade ago. There are several of the newer-style DQ’s in metro Birmingham, most owned by Jasper attorney Byron McMath, the developer of the Gardendale store. (A traditional Dairy Queen is still located inside the Stuckey’s store in Hayden, off Interstate 65.)