COPPERAS COVE — Kettle owner Tim Lyons turned the lock on his front doors at 2 p.m. Sunday to close down for the day for the last time.
“We had some longtime workers here and that was a tear-jerker,” Lyons said about conducting one final business meeting after listening to the dead bolts on the front doors of his business slide into place.
Kettle had been in business in Copperas Cove for 32 years after opening in both the city and Killeen in September 1979.
The Cove restaurant’s last day of operations was Sunday, and at least two other locally operated businesses — Five Hills B-B-Q and Brenda’s Closet — will follow suit at the end of the month.
Both have been in operation for two years. Five Hills B-B-Q will close its doors Christmas Day after cooking Christmas turkey and ham meals for residents to pick up, and Brenda’s Closet will shut down sometime after that.
The Copperas Cove store isn’t profitable, said Lyons. The Killeen location, which he also runs, has been carrying it for several years now.
“My business has been bad ever since they went to no smoking,” he said. “After that we never fully recovered.”
Profit margins also were to blame for Five Hills B-B-Q closing, said owner Dean Lock. It was the same for Brenda’s Closet, said owner Brenda Cuney.
Lock said his business has been barely making a profit, and since he wasn’t seeing larger success now, he wasn’t going to stick around to find out what more restaurants at The Five Hill shopping center were going to do to his business.
“We haven’t lost any money, and we haven’t made any money here,” said Lock. ”If we are not making it, and with other things upcoming here ... then how are we going to make it then?
“This my passion; this is something that I love to do. It is my blood, but it is just like anything else — you have to make money.”
Cuney said profits also weren’t what she was expecting. Her clothing consignment store has already changed business plans, and is now buying and trading upper-end garments to sell.
“We are just out of our lease and we figured, well, it is as good time as any,” she said, not knowing if they could pay out of pocket for the business for much longer.
Traffic and other problems
The three cited multiple reasons for not having enough business, but a common reason was the traffic.
Lock said that the traffic was too busy. “If you are at Walmart at 5 p.m., it takes you 20 minutes to get to our store,” he said of the just more than two-mile drive. “If I am hungry for dinner, I am not going to drive 30 minutes in town to get dinner, then drive another 30 minutes home.”
And in most cases people are driving that to go home, and they don’t want to deal with that to go back out.
Cuney said having the visibility from the traffic was good, but the U.S. Highway 190 bypass projects were going to eliminate that and people don’t really notice her store from the highway frontage anyway.
Lock agreed with Cuney and said people who live on the other side of town never travel to the west side. Lock is constantly meeting people who don’t know there is a barbecue restaurant in Copperas Cove.
Lyons said by closing the Copperas Cove store, he hopes the Killeen location will finally be able to be renovated. He also wanted to try to draw some of his regular business from Copperas Cove to Killeen.
“It’s about 10 minutes down the road,” Lyons said to one man Monday who ignored the “closing” signs and tried to take a seat in the restaurant.
Some of the groups who normally frequent the Kettle said they would just move their normal meeting times to Killeen, he said.
For Lock, a barbecue business may still be in the future, but he was going to give it at least a six-month break to see what happens after the Five Hills shopping center opens, and the bypasses are constructed.
“This is not what I want to do; this is just the smart thing to do,” he said. “I could easily talk myself out of it.”
While Lock also caters, he said that business will be done, too, since he will be putting the majority of his equipment into storage.
Cuney’s passion for dressing people in fashion isn’t fully over yet, she said. While she is studying prelaw, she will work as a private consultant for people who need fashion help and want style makeovers.
Despite Lock, Lyons and Cuney all having different businesses, they all said they were going to miss the same thing — the customers.