SULLIVAN (WTWO/WAWV) — The number of residents who ventured out in the cold Tuesday to watch the groundbreaking of Kat-A-Korner diner were a testament to how much the restaurant has meant to the Sullivan community.
“Something that’s been here for that long is a staple in a community, especially in a small community,” owner Fred Richey said. “As you can see the turnout from everyone who has shown up for a simple groundbreaking, that’s what it means.”
The original location burned down last November leaving a hole in the community, according to owner Fred Richey.
Tuesday’s groundbreaking was two-fold, celebrating the new restaurant construction, while remembering long-time Kat-A-Korner owner Jeff Wamsley who passed away recently.
“Much like when (the restaurant) burned down, it left a hole in the community, we are also doing a remembrance for a fellow who passed away just a couple of weeks ago,” Richey said of Wamsley. “He has also left a hole in this community. So it’s kind of a healing thing and a remembrance of him being a part of the Kat-A-Korner for so long before I took over.
Wamsley and his wife, Bonita owned the restaurant for 19 years, but it’s history dates back to the 30s, starting out as a truck stop with gas pumps out front.
Truckers would fill their tanks and then head inside for biscuits and gravy to fill their appetites, Richey said.
It was Aldona Anderson who later took over and gave it the Kat-A-Korner name. It changed owners a few more times–and names too–before the Wamsley’s brought back the Kat-A-Korner name.
Richey became owner just one year before the tragic fire.
“It was just starting to become mine after following such a legacy that the Wamsley’s built,” Richey said of the time just before the fire. “Now coming back into it and everyone coming out to support me, shows that love and the care in the community.”
The new building will be slightly larger than the original. Most of the additional space will be in the kitchen area; however, Richey noted 10 more seats will be added to the dining room, and there will be a meeting room capable of accommodating up to 25 people.
The menu will still include all of the staples such as the award-winning biscuits and gravy and, of course, The Mountain. Richey said he also plans to add fried chicken.
Construction of the new building will begin immediately, and Richey hopes that the base will be in place in time to work on the inside throughout the winter.
No official opening date has been set, but Richey is shooting for February or March.