By Anthony Scott
Killeen Daily Herald
Waitress Michelle Barnett, 46, wore a uniform she's been familiar with since she started work at Henderson's Family Restaurant in the '90s. Everything was the same as always to many patrons as the Wednesday lunch rush was in full swing. But for Barnett, the rest of the wait staff and the dozens of regulars, things will never be the same.
The restaurant's founder, Jerry Henderson, died recently, leaving the business to his wife, Vivian, 65.
"A lot of people came here because of Jerry," Barnett said, who started work 15 years ago, the same year the downtown eatery opened. "I have a fear that it won't stay the same. I think if they change it, the new owners are going to lose business; it won't be the same. I do believe we'll lose a lot of clientele."
Jerry was known for his ability to build relationships with patrons and staff. The restaurant also was known as one of the few mom-and-pop, country-style restaurants in Killeen. Before he died of cancer July 18 at 65, Jerry worked a deal to sell the restaurant so his wife wouldn't have to worry about it.
Now that she owns the restaurant, Vivian plans to carry out his wish and sell it Monday to investor Docsun Martin. The original asking price was about $498,000. Martin could not be reached for comment on a final buying price.
"They said they are going to keep all of the employees, which really made me feel good," Vivian said. "I didn't want them to lose their jobs. They all have families to feed and take care of. Jerry really liked his employees. They weren't just employees, they were family or extended family."
According to Councilman Larry Cole, who is a real estate appraiser, there is a 90-day no change clause within the purchase contract that applies to staff.
"All I get out of that is that the same people will basically be the same people," he said. "The same staff will be running it. There won't be any changes I take it in the menu or for the restaurant for at least 90 days."
Cole said he ethically couldn't divulge the sale price. He did say three or four properties sold in the area recently were valued at about $82 per square feet.
"Normally, the tax value or assessed value is a little lower than the actual market value for the property," he said.
The Bell County Appraisal District lists the property as worth about $179,623.
"I just hope that the new owners don't change anything and just let the current staff run it," Cole said. "I really don't know how to explain it and kind of beat around the bush. It's much more different than say Applebee's."
Cole said he eats at Henderson's about three times a week.
"We're about the only family-owned, family-type restaurant in town," said Jen Matthews, manager of the restaurant. "Everything else is up on restaurant row and chains. I imagine we're about the only ones left in town."
That is, except for Hallmark Restaurant which Vivian owns in addition to Papa's Café in Harker Heights.
She plans to sell both businesses to a buyer in the near future; however, Vivian didn't recall the names of the buyers or for how much.
It is not uncommon to find relatives and friends of Jerry working or eating at any given moment. Trudy Stone knew Jerry for 30 years and has been coming since the restaurant opened. She treks out to Henderson's two or three times a week from her home in Belton. She said as far as food goes, there aren't many places like it anymore.
"I like the food and the people; it's like home," she said. "They don't have a good place like this in Belton. A lot of restaurants went out of business. There are new ones coming in, but not that many."
Contact Anthony Scott at (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.