Dean's Haywood Cafe closes after 13 years
After 13 years of serving up down home country cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dean's Haywood Cafe in Waynesville was recently forced to shut the doors.
The cafe, which was located at 3360 Crabtree Road, was known as the truck stop to many and was a popular stop for locals and truckers.
Owner Dean Kirkpatrick said he was sad to see the restaurant close after he was unable to keep up with mounting back taxes.
Kirkpatrick grew up in the restaurant business — his uncle Jack owned Jack's Food Bar in Canton and his other aunt and uncle owned the popular Dixon's Little Boy. He remembers working at Jack's Food Bar cleaning the bathrooms when he was about 12 years old.
So when it came time to strike out on his own, it seemed natural to get into the restaurant business. He worked in corporate food distribution before he was finally able to purchase his own restaurant in 2001. The restaurant that had previously been called the Waysider became Dean's Haywood Cafe and quickly became a popular stop for a quick bite to eat.
The original owners of the restaurant closed down because they said rock slides off I-40 had caused business to slow down, Kirkpatrick said. But he wasn't too worried about that — he wanted to open a restaurant that catered to the local communities, which is exactly what he did.
For many, the day didn't even begin until they made a trip to Dean's Haywood Cafe.
"We had a tremendous amount of regular customers," Kirkpatrick said.
One Hostess truck driver stopped by the cafe every day for 30 years on his route from Knoxville to South Carolina. Then, of course, there were the local regulars coming from the rural Crabtree, Iron Duff, Fines Creek and White Oak communities.
One group of elderly men could be found in the same seats every morning making up what became known as the "liar's bench" where they swapped stories and shared their "lies" said Kirkpatrick with a laugh.
"It's things like that that we'll miss the most," he said.
Many stopped in to enjoy breakfast, which was served all day. But most came for the wait staff, who served up food daily with a smile and kind-hearted banter with the regular customers. At one time, a trio of waitresses had worked at the cafe in excess of 20 years each.
In 2005, Kirkpatrick went through a divorce and sold the restaurant to his ex-wife. But in 2009, he purchased the restaurant again after the N.C. Department of Revenue took possession of it.
"The restaurant was heavily indebted when I repurchased it, and for four-and-a-half years my current wife, Trudy, and I worked very hard to build the business, and we did," he said.
But while trying to make it in the restaurant business during trying economic times, they also got behind on their taxes.
"We were making a monthly payment of $1,000 to clear the back taxes, but in January we were informed that was no longer sufficient and that amount would double," Kirkpatrick said.
He informed proper authorities that he could not pay the increased monthly payment and four days later on Feb. 4, he received a call from the state revenue department that they were at the restaurant and had closed the doors.
"It was just a shock," Kirkpatrick said of the sudden closure.
"I feel like I've abandoned the community, and I've done a lot of apologizing to customers, but my wife and I did all we could to keep it open," he said.
Though they talked with lawyers and negotiated a way to pay the taxes, the building owner would not let them return to their lease.
Kirkpatrick said he's not sure what's next for him and his wife. He might go back into his old career of corporate food distribution, but his true love lies with the cafe.
"My preference would be to open another Haywood Cafe," he said. "We've looked around in the area and haven't been able to find a building suitable to house another Haywood Cafe."
Kirkpatrick gives credit to all of his customers for making the restaurant a success for so many years.
"We spent day and night seven days a week at the cafe and worked very hard for the community, and we will miss them dearly," Kirkpatrick said. "We love them, and we want to thank them for everything they've done for us over the years."
The Sam's Mart corporation, which owns the building where the gas station and the former location for Dean's Haywood Cafe, said they do not speak to reporters when asked if there are any plans for the now empty restaurant.