Belly up: Blue Water Seafood closed suddenly. The owners cite personal pressures. Restaurant Solace is also set to close its doors.
Asheville must say goodbye to two, still-young members of the food scene. Blue Water Seafood Company closed its two-year-old location on Charlotte Street and its restaurant and wholesale operation in Hendersonville on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Restaurant Solace, open since May of 2011 on the corner of Haywood Street and Battery Park Avenue, will close on Oct. 28, the owners say.
Blue Water Seafood suspended its operations suddenly. Tracy Griffin, who owns the venture with her husband, David, says they made the decision to close on the same day that they shuttered their businesses. They papered the windows and donated the remaining lobsters, shrimp and other products to Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry.
“It's a hard business, and it's really taken a toll on our lives, and we say we're all or nothing,” Tracy says. “We just said we're not going to let it destroy our family anymore.” She says she hopes to have more time to spend with her 6-year-old daughter.
Blue Water is for sale, Tracy says, and several potential buyers have expressed interest. She thinks new owners will take over the business despite its suspended operations. “I didn't even wait until they bought it,” she says. “I just wanted to be retired. It's been 24 hours a day for 11 years.”
Like Blue Water, the engine behind Restaurant Solace has been a husband-and-wife team. Annie and Bryan Kimmett have held down the corner of Haywood and Battery Park since May 2011, serving farm-to-table fare.
But Annie says the couple's concept hasn't worked out like they had hoped it would. “In order to make the rent, our vision has changed a lot, and [Bryan] wasn't able to do what he wanted,” she says.
Bryan, the chef, hopes to focus more on helping with farmers to work with restaurants. He also wants to spend more time with his two daughters, ages 8 and 12. He says he will continue to remain active in the food industry in a different capacity. He's doing consulting work for a new inn in Hot Springs and raising quail on the family's farm.
Annie adds that Monday-night swing dancing in the basement of the restaurant (called the Lower Level) has been popular and will continue until the closing. When pressed, though, she added that the building's underground dining room has proved problematic for the business. “I'd have to say if anything it is that downstairs that doesn't work,” she says. “People just don't want to eat like that anymore. They want good food, and they'll pay for it, but they don't want to eat it in that stuffy, white-cloth environment.”
The spot at 1 Battery Park Ave. will remain a restaurant, says owner Tony Fraga. “We are discussing the location with about three potential restaurateurs,” he says. The space also housed The Flying Frog Café from 1996 until 2011.