Almost exactly a month after the fast-casual seafood restaurant C’Viche closed up shop on Lower Greenville because of anemic sales, its sister restaurant, Clark Food and Wine, has also closed. The news broke on Monday, the day after Christmas, with plans to close up shop the following night.
It’s a surprising move for the new restaurateurs, Randall and Courtney Warder, who said they were closing C’Viche to focus on Clark, but Warder said business just wasn’t what it used to be when he opened in 2015, and he got “an offer he couldn’t refuse” from a restaurant group in California to buy both businesses.
After negotiations, the parties finally reached an agreement with a takeover date of Jan. 1, which didn’t give Warder much time to alert customers and staff. He said he didn’t want to break the news to his team when he got it, the Friday before Christmas, so he waited until after.
“While there was a handshake agreement, there were still a few pieces of red ink that needed to be worked out,” Warder says. “I wish we would have gotten the deal done two weeks earlier and been able to tell everyone in advance we're closing.”
Greenville Avenue has been hit or miss for restaurants and bars. While there are a handful that rake in customers – HG Sply Co., Steel City Pops, Truck Yard — others see less traffic through the doors. Remedy is another example of a Greenville Avenue casualty; it closes after New Year's Eve to re-concept as an American/Chinese eatery.
“HG is the only place that does gangbusters on this part of Greenville, and even Elias Pope [the owner] says it's an anomaly, he doesn't understand it, but he's thankful that he has that," Warder says. "The popsicle place [Steel City Pops] kills it — that's another anomaly. About 80 percent of the foot traffic that I see are people walking down the street carrying popsicles. God bless them, that's so cool. It's not widespread.”
Whether it’s the luck of the draw, or the construction on Greenville, or a mix of other factors that determines whether a business is going to succeed isn’t for certain, but what Warder does know is that the road work changed his business.
“When we first opened in 2015, we were busy all the time," he says. "And in the summer of 2015, we had good business every week. But when they started the construction Sept. 1, 2015, everything changed. I thought it was just because September is always dreadful, but nothing changed come October and November and December. The vehicular and foot traffic dropped by 50 percent. And through this year, the foot traffic is almost nonexistent.”
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Warder says even with the slow months, 2015 was pretty good, but 2016 was really difficult for both businesses. Yet he says the construction needed to happen to improve the street.
“Ultimately it will benefit the neighborhood, it will beautify the place. Landlords can get the right tenants between where Clark was and Ross Avenue, instead of having a sea of buildings that haven't been kept up,” he says. “Until all of these empty spaces can get some life, it's going to be challenging.”
Warder doesn’t know what the California restaurant group has in store for the spaces or even what his next move is going to be. He’s been in the restaurant business for his entire career, first as a chef and then as a food and beverage director, consultant for restaurant development and chief concept officer for Macaroni Grill. He says it’s doubtful he’ll open another restaurant of his own. It’s too many hours – 14 to 16 every day, seven days a week with no vacation, he says.
“I’m 53 years old. I don't have the bandwidth anymore to do that — mentally and physically, the hours that it takes,” Warder says. “I'm really good at opening restaurants; you do it for 60 days and go on to the next. But the day-to-day constant never getting a break thing, I'm too old. I haven't had a vacation for two years, so we'll just leave it at that.”