After over 41 years in business, the Steer House in Pulaski is closing.
Owners Bobby and Lesia Abbott told The Patriot Thursday afternoon they had decided to close the restaurant.
“We’ve got 77 years combined in this restaurant and we’re just burned out,” said Bobby Abbott.
“Lesia and I can’t wait. It will be a breath of fresh air,” he added.
Abbott said plans as of now are to close the restaurant at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11 – “if we can keep enough help until then.”
Abbott said the restaurant’s 38 employees have already been told. The news, he said, was met with “sadness across the board.”
Nearly all the employees are part-timers, as Abbott said only the managers in the restaurant were full-timers.
Abbott urged customers who still have unused gift certificates from the restaurant to come in soon and use them as they can’t be used after the restaurant closes and no refunds can be given.
“We’ve had the restaurant for sale for the past year and a half,” Abbott said. “We’ve been trying to find a suitable restaurateur or someone to come in and buy the restaurant like it is and take it over and keep all our valued employees working. We had just come to the point we weren’t getting any legitimate offers or anyone who was interested so we decided to roll the dice and close it.
Abbott said the restaurant is still for sale.
“The tax assessed value for the property and the building is $463,000 and I’m asking $350,000 for property, building and equipment. All lock, stock and barrel. That’s turn-key,” Abbott said.
“Our main concern all along has been our employees, that’s the reason we have been tip-toeing on this thing for the past year and a half,” Abbott said.
“We’ve been bleeding money for the last three years solid. I’ve been running food costs about 2 percent higher than what it should be, and we just can’t seem to get the prices down. We were at the point I didn’t feel like raising our prices was going to be beneficial to us or our customers.
“We can’t be an Outback Steakhouse or a Red Lobster, and we can’t price our meals that high,” Abbott continued.
Abbott said being an independent restaurant, the Steer House just didn’t have the clout to get the buying power that a lot of chains do so “we’re at the mercy of suppliers like Cisco as far as their pricing. They’re going to miss us because we’re one of their best accounts.
“Our whole focus all along has been family and friends,” said Abbott. “We have made so many friends over the years. I just can’t tell you how much it has meant to us. Older customers who have come in and meant so much to us – you’d think of them just like your own grandparents. Over the years we lost a lot of customers and we keep losing them through attrition. We’re bringing in younger customers, but it’s just harder to stay in business anymore.”
Abbott expressed appreciation for some people who through the years have looked out for them.
“There’s a lot to be said about small business and how townspeople looked out for us. People like Tony Meredith and Chief Gary Roche with the Pulaski Police Department. Their people who travel the roads day and night have done an awesome job over the years. We’ve been broken into a couple times, and we’ve always had the support of the police department. They’ve looked out after us. And also, the sheriff’s department. It’s made our employees feel safer and me too,” Abbott said.
Abbott’s parents, Bob and Betty, opened the restaurant on March 6, 1978 and they owned it for the first 20 years.
“When my dad moved to Bedford in 1998, he turned over all the stock to me,” Abbott said.
“My mom is still alive in a nursing home in Bedford with Alzheimer’s. My father passed away back on Oct. 15. He found out five weeks before he passed away that he had leukemia,” Abbott said.
Abbott said he had the restaurant on the market a year before his father’s death, and, “he had given us his blessing on selling it.”
“We very much appreciate all of our customers through the years, as well as our loyal employees. We have several who have been with us 25 to 30 years,” Abbott said.
“That’s been the hardest part of it all.”