Friday, January 08, 2010

8 JAN 10: Flamed Out

In a small town with little competition, a restaurant is likely to stay in business for decades. In a larger city, business can be like a lunch menu. It could be hot for awhile, then grow as cold as a salad bar.

"RESTAURANT IS OUT OF BUSINESS" says the sign outside CharBroil on U.S. 280 in Phenix City. Nearby workers tell me the dining spot closed for good last weekend - so it's NOT simply a matter of people buying extra propane tanks to heat their mobile homes.

The CharBroil restaurant opened near the Phenix City Wal-Mart in July 2007. It took its name from the famous grills made by The W.C. Bradley Company. But on the one night I ate there, I didn't see anyone outside the building actually cooking with one.

The story we heard in 2007 was that CharBroil's prices were on the high side - with hamburgers selling for $9.95 [29-31 Jul 07]. I can see why this might have been a problem. I could have driven up the hill and across the street to McDonald's, and bought nine of them for that price -- with cheese.

But some people had big problems with a local restaurant named CharBroil. They remembered how W.C. Bradley shut down the grill factory in Columbus and moved production to China [17 Nov 04]. I mentioned that fact at a singles Bible study one weekend, and one woman spoke up about being "socially responsible." The rest were typical singles, simply wanting to eat out somewhere.

I don't know how many potential customers stayed away from the CharBroil restaurant because of the China outsourcing -- or even if that led to its closing. We called the company selling the building Thursday, but a message for a salesperson was not returned. Maybe he's busy trying to get that other CharBroil restaurant shut down in sympathy.

It's interesting to note W.C. Bradley Real Estate is handling the sale of the CharBroil restaurant building - but a woman at the office told me W.C. Bradley does NOT own it. The company with an "1885" on its building doesn't want this nostalgia stuff to go too far.

The CharBroil restaurant was one of those places which was supposed to rejuvenate Phenix City. Yet it reached its end in two-and-a-half years. It only adds to the reputation that in Phenix City, "fine dining" refers to Shoney's all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet.

So what should replace CharBroil in the building near U.S. 280? Before you offer the most obvious answer, remember something - that site used to house Golden Rule Barbecue. That didn't bring in enough gold, so rule that out....

While we were in the neighborhood Thursday, we learned about another sad closing. The Covenant Christian bookstore has gone out of business. Or better put, it folded like two praying hands.

There's a soft place in my heart for The Covenant, because it sold my inspirational album several years ago. Well, it tried to sell the CD. But as a country music group used to say, sales "started slow and tapered."

E-MAIL UPDATE: The reader who praised the American Red Cross here Wednesday wants to add a P.S....

In edition to the great response of the Red Cross in helping the victims of the Cooper Creek I have to give another couple of plugs.K-Mart with the REd Cross gave large vouchers..Publix gave gift cards for food and today Colony Furniture gave them beds,sheets and kitchen goods..Places where these victims work have also been helpful ....Columbus has a heart!!..If you are a renter go get yourself renters insurance..Legally the apt.owners owe you nothing.They only have to insure their building and no matter the reason for the fire/flood they owe the renter nothing..Seems unfair,right?

If Colony Furniture is handing out beds like this, the city might not have to take bids for part of the jail expansion.

BIG BLOG BOWL BLOWOUT: No, we didn't forget Thursday night's main event - the thing WTVM's Jason Dennis said was filled with tension and building excitement. And as of midnight, it still had NOT occurred. You know what I mean - snow in downtown Columbus....

Oh wait - Alabama settled the Bowl Championship Series title shortly after 12:00 midnight Eastern Time. The Tide toppled Texas for the trophy 37-21. And I was surprised to find one man at my poker night was able to say "Tide-Texas title tilt today" several times, despite drinking a little alcohol.

(But I'm a little ashamed to say I was the only poker player who stood up for the national anthem - and one woman actually wondered what I was doing.)

Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram scored a touchdown in Alabama's win - then displayed a pair of gloves with an "A" logo for the TV camera. Yes, I know it's cold outside. But I'll only buy those gloves if Ingram's father is making them in prison.

Alabama seemed to have the B.C.S. title settled at halftime, after a "Utah" shuttle pass was intercepted by Marcel Dareus and returned for a touchdown. It took more than a year, but the Alabama defense finally found a Utah play it could stop.

But the Tide struggled on offense for much of the second half. Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle had 2.5 sacks. Yes, we can say it - Kindle read 'em like a book.

ABC Sports noted the Alabama championship earns head coach Nick Saban a $400,000 bonus. It's an incentive clause in his contract. Perhaps he shared some of his Southeastern Conference title bonus with Davis Broadcasting - because for once, it didn't use a cheap phone line to present the football broadcast on WEAM/WIOL.

Alabama radio announcer Eli Gold was his usual eloquent self Thursday night. And he also introduced me to a new product called "Bama Nation Hot Sauce." It probably can even make Tiger meat taste like chicken.

The Alabama championship also earns Senator Richard Shelby some food. He made a bet on the game with Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, with the winner receiving a turkey. I mean a real turkey, as opposed to the health care reform bill....

There was a strange political sight in Pasadena Thursday. A rented airplane flew a banner over the Rose Bowl, demanding the impeachment of Alabama Governor Bob Riley. Former supporter Stan Pate admitted arranging it to protest Riley's tax proposals, and even this week's rumored raid on Country Crossing. But I think lawmakers will be too busy to hold impeachment hearings -- while finding taxes to cut instead

As college football fans go into winter hibernation (now until signing day), we check other Thursday headlines:

+ Several area school districts called off Friday classes, because of potentially icy weather. Terrell County canceled class Thursday afternoon, even as the forecast there called for nothing but rain. Is this a stunt to gain federal stimulus money to buy snow plows?

+ Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren announced four promotions of veteran officers. The list notably did NOT include J.D. Hawk - an officer African-American leaders say hasn't been punished enough for his phone call to a state trooper after a speeding arrest. They'd prefer he leave town, and become an Atlanta Hawk.

+ Residents at the House of Mercy began escorting students home from East Columbus Magnet Academy. It's nice to see them providing this service, and I can understand why it's necessary right now. But the question demands asking - would you want your child escorted to school by someone from a homeless shelter? Or would you feel a little guilty, and pack two lunches?

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A man who sounds negative, and very old-fashioned....

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