Two Lee Road businesses to close this week
Two days after the 2014 Heights Music Hop, which brought hundreds of people to Lee Road, two of its well-loved businesses—Cedar Lee Pub and Grill, and Sweetie Fry—announced that they are closing up shop.
At 1:51 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13, a Cedar Lee Pub and Grill staff member posted on Twitter, “We regret to inform you we are closing permanently. Thank you all for your support. We've had some great memories.” The pub had been a music venue for the hop on Saturday, Oct. 11.
As of Tuesday morning, Oct. 14, nothing had been posted on the business’s Facebook page nor at its physical location at 2191 Lee Road. The owners could not be reached for comment.
Keith Logan, owner of Sweetie Fry, posted a letter announcing the closing of his business at its storefront at 2307 Lee Road, and on its Facebook page, on Monday, Oct. 13. “It is with great sadness that I announce that Sweetie Fry will be closing this week,” the letter began. “It turns out that we just couldn’t sell enough indulgent snacks to support a restaurant. Most successful restaurants these days are focused on healthy food meal—and that’s a good thing. I guess Sweetie Fry was a little too quirky.”
With flavors such as sweet corn and black pepper, the restaurant may have been a little edgier than the typical ice cream parlor, but Heights residents loved it. They voted Sweetie Fry the Best New Business in 2012, the year it opened, and honored it with the Best Place for Sweet Treats award in this year’s FutureHeights Best of the Heights contest, announced in September.
“We gave it a try for three years, and we just weren’t able to get over the hump—the break-even hump,” said Logan. “We needed more space, and although the city—particularly Greg Zucca [economic development director]—was very helpful and pointed us in the right direction, in the end, we couldn’t make the financing work.”
Logan said he had tried many ways to tweak the business model, such as wholesale and sales to restaurants, but had limited success. “We were heading into our slow season and didn’t have the reserves to keep it going.”
Logan invited residents to write notes to the business on sticky notes he placed in a dog dish by the restaurant’s front door, and by Tuesday morning, several notes had been left.
One of the notes was from the Ramsey family. Chip Ramsey, owner of Washington & Lee Service, said, “My kids were heartbroken. Last Saturday [night of the Heights Music Hop] was really something else. It was great to see so many people on Lee Road.”
Ramsey said that he heard several Lee Road business owners say that business had been down for them this year. “It’s been sketchy for me,” he said. “Last February was terrible because of the weather. Now, though, business is going well and I’ve got cars lined up.”
Sweetie Fry fans also expressed their thoughts on Facebook. Many expressed disbelief and sadness at the news.
Employee Thomas T. Drummer, who identified himself as “The Fry Guy,” thanked Logan for giving him the opportunity to work for him. “I learned so much from you when it comes to business. I enjoyed every moment I worked there,” he wrote.
Logan pledged that Sweetie Fry will remain open this week “until our freezers are empty for both ice cream and French fries.”
“Please continue to support the small businesses on the street,” wrote Logan on Facebook. “We’re all at our best when we treat this block like part of our home.”
Logan said he has no idea what he will do next. “I have nothing planned,” he said, although he said he has learned a lot about hospitality and food as a craft.
“It was a privilege to be able to learn a craft and make good food for my neighborhood,” said Logan. “Many people have a favorite memory of Sweetie Fry, and I hope that people will remember the fun times we had together.”
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.