Pizza to go and restaurant gone in Graham

Probably the most disappointing local news item I read over the July 4 holiday weekend was this one in the Burlington Times-News. The headline, “Plans for Eddy Pub owners’ Graham Italian restaurant nixed” tells only part of the story. The decision not only knocks the new Eddy Pub restaurant out of downtown Graham but might impact the future plans of a taproom for Haw River Farmhouse Ales.

Very discouraging on both counts. In a post by me on Feb. 25 of this year (“Stuff is brewing in Graham“) I cheered those two developments as great additions to downtown Graham, a place rapidly becoming a destination. It still is, but a little luster has been removed — for me anyway.

The short Times-News item didn’t have many details. In an email sent to the Times-News the Eddy Pub’s owner Claire Haslam cited a “number of unforeseen and insurmountable obstacles” to the plans she crafted along with co-owner, husband Doug Williams. They had intended to open Radici, an Italian restaurant specializing in wood-oven pizzas at 106 N. Main St. in Graham. Haslam did not elaborate or offer any details about the insurmountable obstacles but the Times-News story did say the couple submitted renovation plans to the Graham Historic Preservation Commission. The commission tabled the proposal.

My hunch — and it’s strictly a guess on my part — is that installing a wood-fired oven into a historic structure downtown proved problematic. Ventilation, for example, would probably be one of many possible issues.

The Eddy Pub posted this on its Facebook page July 5. Apparently they’re taking the pizza idea on the road. The true meaning of pizza to go.

We have had our eyes and hearts set to pizza mode for the last year packed with new pie-loving friendships, tons of r&d (a lot of eating too), and the growing lust for wood-firing our own someday. Well that day is upon us… after a sad departure from incubating a brick and mortar space in Graham, we have found an ideal outlet for this pizza passion – meet Rotelle, our mobile wood-fired pizza oven, which means “wheels” in Italian. Our baby arrived home this week, we fired ‘er up for some in-house test batching yesterday, and we are looking forward to sharing our passion with you all soon. Stay tuned for more announcements and how you can book our new baby Rotelle. Slinging with you soon!

While I’m glad the Eddy Pub owners will be branching outside of Saxapahaw — and this mobile pizza oven is a great catering idea — I’m sad for what might have been in the still hopping downtown Graham. The addition of this kind of restaurant — and I mentioned in an earlier post it sounds much like a restaurant operated by my brother-in-law in Illinois — would be fantastic.

wood oven

The wood oven in my brother-in-law’s restaurant, Parmeseans Wood Stone Pizza, in Frankfort, Illinois.

The Eddy Pub’s decision has a secondary impact on a business I love, Haw River Farmhouse Ales. Owner Ben Woodward said in February of 2018 that he hoped to open a taproom at 110 N. Main St. that would also include “upscale pub fare.” He also said the move was in conjunction with the Eddy Pub — the two are currently friendly neighbors in Saxapahaw. He told the Times-News on July 6 the plans for expanding into Graham are uncertain.

Losing both businesses would definitely be a shame for our area and small step backward in terms of momentum for downtown Graham. Frankly, the Haw River Farmhouse Ales tasting room in Saxapahaw is a little cramped and Graham would allow the operation to spread out and reach a wider audience. I hope Haw River Farmhouse Ales decides to pursue the Graham location.

Redeveloping old downtown sites is a tricky and sometimes costly business. It’s the job of historic preservation commissions to protect the integrity of aging buildings and I want them to continue to do so. But often those regulations meet progress head to head. It’s why luring businesses to downtown can be one step forward, two steps back propositions.

Graham still has a lot of excellent venues operating downtown or in the works so this is just a minor setback. But it’s still a shame.


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