Herb's Carry-Out to close its doors shy of 50 years

10/27/2012

Local restaurant expected to shut down Nov. 21.

Local restaurant expected to shut down Nov. 21.

BY DEREK THOMPSON

dthompson@gctelegram.com

A staple of the Garden City dining scene soon will be closing its doors for good.

Gary Whitehurst, owner of Herb's Carry-Out, 110 W. Kansas Ave., plans to close his business on Nov. 21, just shy of 50 years in operation.

"The business isn't what it used to be. It's not sustaining itself," Whitehurst, 62, said. "At some point in time, you've got to look around and see it's not profitable anymore."

The local burger establishment opened in 1963 under the ownership of Herb Petrus. The original building was located slightly to the north of where it stands today, before the new building was built in 1987. Whitehurst purchased Herb's in May 1995.

The closure has been in Whitehurst's line of sight for about the last two years, he said. It was put on the market two years ago in various trade magazines, but no offers to purchase the business worked out. He and his wife decided to look for a leasee about a year ago.

In February, the Sticky Rice Restaurant, 1408 Buffalo Jones Ave., plans to relocate from its location next to the Continental Inn to Herb's spot on Kansas Avenue.

"Fast food and cheap food is what people want," Whitehurst said, adding that the mom-and-pop concept may be becoming extinct.

"The whole concept of this type of business — when the old people die off, so do the businesses because there's nobody that wants to come in and work that hard," he added. "It is a lot of effort to run a business like this."

Herb's has its share of regulars, with some customers coming in every day or frequently for special occasions. The closure of the longtime burger place will leave a void in the community, Whitehurst said.

"Sometimes the loss of a business like this, those are the things that you have to hold on to — the good times," he said.

The closure will have a ripple effect on other area businesses, as Herb's uses locally-grown ingredients in its products, he said. Herb's uses meat from Ron's Market in Holcomb and ingredients from Divine Gardens in Deerfield, among others.

"Herb's has maybe just outlived its life. When McDonald's came in, everyone said Herb's was going to be out of business. Herb said, 'They're just another competitor. It's good for business. They'll go there once, and they'll come back to Herb's next time,'" Whitehurst said.

But customer loyalty is not what it used to be. Companies big and small realize that, he said, but the little guys aren't able to survive.

"We're doing about 10 percent of what we did five years ago, as far as hamburger sales," Whitehurst said.

Though the burger shop is closing, Whitehurst has considered keeping the bakery aspect of Herb's alive. Known for its made-from-scratch pies and fresh cookies, people aren't going to be able to get their Christmas cookies or traditional Valentine's Day cookies.

"I wish there was a way we could do it. We've even thought about trying to do something with the baking end of the business because there's nothing like that in town either. ... So if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, there might be something come up," he said.

In closing, Whitehurst has a clear message for the community.

"I just want to thank everybody. You can't stay in business for 50 year without good, loyal customers," Whitehurst said.

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