Shoney’s to close — for now

New site being sought in Clyde area
By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Jan 26, 2014
Photo by: Jessi Stone Server Erica Lewis pours coffee for regular customers Angela and Lee Woodard of Canton.

Shoney’s Restaurant on Paragon Parkway will shut its doors on Feb. 6 until further notice.

Shoney’s was one of a dozen pieces of property forced to relocate because of an upcoming North Carolina Department of Transportation road project. Shoney’s owner Gary Lowe said he didn’t have the funds to find another location in time and rebuild a new store.

“Losing my business hurts me personally and financially, but it breaks my heart I don’t have a place for my employees to go. They’ve been very loyal,” Lowe said. “We’ll keep all our records, and we’ll inform (former employees) first thing when we get ready to re-open.”

Lowe said he didn’t feel like he was treated fairly by the DOT and that he planned to fight it in court if needed.

“They didn’t offer me an adequate amount to pay off my mortgage and rebuild. I’m in litigation with DOT but that’s all I can say about it,” he said.

About 45 employees will be out of a job in two weeks when everything has to be cleared out of the building. It’s a building Shoney’s has occupied since 1997 when it moved from Waynesville. Lowe said Shoney’s operated where Zaxby’s is now for about 20 years before moving to Paragon Parkway.

At one time Lowe owned seven Shoney's restaurants, but he said he always received more positive comments about the food, personnel and service at the Clyde location. Now he only has one other location — in Franklin.

“I’d like to thank the area for the 30-something years of letting us serve them,” he said.

Even knowing they will be without a job soon, the Shoney’s servers still had smiles on their faces while pouring more coffee for their customers Friday morning. Erma Creighton has worked at Shoney’s for 33 years and is usually there at the front counter greeting customers at the door. She said she would be looking for another job because she wasn’t ready to retire.

Melissa Rickman started working at Shoney’s three years ago as a prep chef. She's been surprised at how much she has enjoyed working there and all the wonderful recipes she's picked up along the way.

“I couldn’t find a job in my field and I didn’t have a car so I needed to find something close by,” she said. “I came down here, and they hired me right away.”

“She makes the best onion rings in the world,” Lowe added.

Rickman plans to move to Buncombe County and try to get back into administrative work, but she said she would be happy to come back if and when the restaurant re-opens.

While all the other businesses have already closed or relocated, Shoney’s is the last one that hasn’t found a new home yet. Burger King moved to the Food Lion parking lot, Taco Bell moved to South Main Street in Waynesville, David’s Home Entertainment moved to Asheville Road.

Shoney’s was looking to purchase a lot on Russ Avenue near The Lodge, but it would have taken more than a year to get the lot prepared for construction. Lowe said he is now in negotiations for a piece of property near the current location, but he’s not ready to release the exact location at this time.

Finding a spot with the same ideal visibility as the Paragon Parkway locale has proved difficult for Lowe.

“Right here we have Lowe’s, the hospital and the high school — that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” he said.


Project progress

Brian Burch, NCDOT project engineer, said the N.C. 209 and U.S. 23/74 project was still on schedule to put out a bid for the contract in April. Construction on the $25 million project will begin in May if everything stays on schedule.

The project will create a new on-ramp heading toward Waynesville and reconstruct the exit ramp onto 209, separating them from the access road. The access road will be moved to the north, as will Paragon Parkway.

The goal is to lessen traffic congestion in the area by widening Crabtree Road to four lanes and a turning lane that will extend toward Old Clyde Road, stopping before the Haywood County Fairgrounds. The train trestle in that spot will be reconstructed to allow for the widening of N.C. 209 underneath it.

NCDOT is still in the process of moving utilities and is still in negotiations to obtain right of way on one more personal piece of property.

“I expect to have that one by early next week,” Burch said. “There are still a couple of businesses where we’ve acquired the property but they’re still on the premises.”

Burch said DOT pays property owners what the property is worth and tries to help them with relocation when they have to take the right of way. He said Shoney’s property was purchased at least six months ago.

He said drivers in the area could expect delays as the road is widened.

“The project is very complicated and there will be an impact on traffic,” he said. “We looked at traffic and tried to phase the project as much as we can to accommodate special events and school traffic, but there will still be an impact.”

The project may take up to three years to complete.