It’s always unfortunate when a longtime local eating establishment closes its doors, but I was particularly sad to see Las Casas in Temple close down over the weekend.
It’s not that my wife and I were regulars. At most, we ate there four or five times a year. But now that it’s gone, that’s one more dining option off the table — so to speak.
More importantly, it’s a connection to our wedding that has been severed. Las Casas catered our engagement party, and the food was great.
Now the restaurant is no more. In fact, it’s destined to be bulldozed to make way for a car lot.
Las Casas isn’t the only touchstone to our big day that is no longer around.
We took care of all our wedding-related business in Salado, which is where we got married nearly a decade ago (it will be 10 years in October), but almost all of those business are gone.
The jewelry store where we bought our wedding rings has closed; the owner retired. The shop where my wife bought her wedding dress is gone. The woman who made our wonderful wedding cake no longer works for the Inn at Salado, where we had our nearly perfect ceremony. But considering the venue’s new owners are Sam and Lilian Halabi of Lily’s Cakes fame, I’m sure the wedding cakes are still excellent.
Even the Stagecoach Inn, where we had our rehearsal dinner, closed its doors a few years back. But happily, the remodeled business reopened under new management this spring.
Restaurants, jewelry stores and dress shops are just brick-and-mortar edifices that have no personality of their own. It’s the people in these businesses who make the memories, along with those we meet there. After a while, these businesses develop a familiar feel that draws you back.
Does anyone remember the old Bluebonnet Cafe in Temple? How about the Courtyard Cafe or Perk’s coffee shop in Lampasas? Anyone else miss Munchner Kindl in Killeen or Mi Casa Su Casa in Heights?
It’s hard to say what made these establishments different, but they had their unique personalities that made each visit memorable.
Until a few years ago, people who dined out spent their time socializing, not posting on social media. Afterward, we’d go home and talk about our evening out. Gathering with friends and family was about being in the moment, and the restaurants and coffee houses where we met were integral parts of those memories.
A few months ago, my wife and I went back to Illinois, where we grew up. We took a brief side trip to my hometown and took a spin through my old neighborhood.
I knew my childhood home wouldn’t be there. Nearly 40 years ago, my parents sold the house to the church next door, which subsequently moved the house and paved over the yard to extend its parking lot.
I had never gone back to see the lot with the house missing, and I wasn’t sure how I’d react to seeing it gone — though I’ve had countless dreams of driving up and seeing another house in its place.
When we turned onto my old street, it wasn’t sad so much as it seemed odd, out of place.
The two trees in the front yard were still there, but nothing else remained — just asphalt where the house used to sit.
Still, though the house is gone, many of the memories of my life there from third grade through high school are as vivid as ever.
Familiar places stir memories in us, and visiting a favorite old restaurant, shop, church or school can help us bring those memories into sharper focus.
Times change. Businesses close or move away — we have to accept that. But when an old shop, restaurant or even a home is replaced by a parking lot or car lot, it’s not so easy to take.
Dave Miller is deputy managing editor for opinion of the KIlleen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7543.