LUMBERTON — The on-again, off-again restaurant, formerly Black Water Grille and most recently 3rd Street Grille, is off again.
Just six months after it reopened with new owner and chef Will Hardy, 3rd Street Grille has closed its doors.
It is another closing in a long list of failed ventures at 111 W. Third St., which have cycled through several owners and bankruptcy. Maria Parker, who owns the building with her husband, Jim, thinks it isn’t a matter of what sets up shop there, but who.
“We really like having a restaurant in there; we really think it’s nice and would be important,” Parker said. “We think a restaurant can do well, we just need to find the right person.”
Hardy had 10 years of experience as a professional chef and ran a Finn & Porter restaurant in Virginia.
“He came from a different place in D.C. where people were just always there,” Parker said. “I think he worked in a restaurant that was in a hotel; it was a different kind of business. I really respect Will Hardy — he worked hard and he tried. I think our whole community was very confusing for him.”
Hardy and his wife Karina and three children moved from Virginia to start the restaurant. He could not be reached for this story.
The closing leaves a hole in the downtown area.
“That was the only actual sit-down restaurant we had in our downtown area so of course it’s very discouraging they weren’t able to keep their doors open,” said Connie Russ, the downtown development coordinator for Lumberton.
Russ believes 3rd Street’s downfall was poor planning, and said she wishes those who open small businesses would use the available resources at Robeson Community College to create a business model.
“What he did may have worked there, but we are here, this is Robeson County, Lumberton, North Carolina,” Russ said. “You have to know your target audience. It’s all part of a good business plan.”
The Parkers have no immediate plans for the building. Maria said if they try a restaurant again, they will be looking for someone with more experience.
“There have been times when the restaurant was extremely successful and everyone in the community seems to want to support it,” Maria said. “They just need the right person who understands the restaurant business and what goes into it. … Every person in there has been a brand new restaurateur.”
Blackwater Grille was first opened in 2004 after original owner Rob Redfearn gutted and renovated the former warehouse and mule stable to create a restaurant.
Hardy opened Blackwater as a formal restaurant, removing pool tables to erase the “sports-bar attitude” the restaurant once projected. In recent months, the menu was scaled down to include casual foods at lower prices, pool tables were brought back along with bar games, and the name was changed to 3rd Street Grille.
“I was in there yesterday and they had pool tables,” Parker said. “I think he sort of wanted to make a lounge or more of a hangout place in the back rather than using it for parties and so forth.”
The changes were too late to save the restaurant, whose doors were locked for good last weekend.
“We know that retail is viable and survivable downtown because there’s businesses that have done it and are doing it, but this is a whole different economic climate we are living in,” Russ said. “People need to be prepared and know what they are getting into.”
n Reach features editor Amanda Munger at 910-272-6144 or email@example.com.