Future uncertain for only remaining Snow White Grill
By Candace Sipos -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- After more than 62 years of business, the future of the Snow White Grill on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall is uncertain, and Roy Dixon Jr. isn't happy about it.
In 1995, a medical issue put Dixon, who owns World Wide Water Systems Co. Inc., into a 10-month coma. When he woke up and the doctor told him he could choose any food he wanted, Dixon replied, "I want a cheeseburger and a big shake from the Snow White Grill."
Soon thereafter, Dixon's family returned to the hospital carting over 100 burgers from the downtown diner for him, his nurses and the hospital staff.
"I knew I was home when I tasted that," Dixon said. "I couldn't wait to get down and sit at the counter and have another one."
Dixon has been eating at the grill for more than 25 years. But now, the restaurant might close its doors.
Owner Rick Childs doesn't want to sell the diner, but he doesn't have a choice, he said. He and his wife, Jan, have had to foreclose on their home and they can no longer pay the mortgage on the establishment.
They put the diner on the market for almost $460,000 two weeks ago through Long and Foster/Webber and Associates Realtor Tana Fishel, Jan Childs said. That price includes the building, business, trademark and registration to the name, she added.
"It basically is a turn-key operation," Mrs. Childs said, noting that the staff, including her and her husband, may continue to work at the diner if possible.
Childs said that if the potential buyer wants to change the restaurant's name, it can never be a Snow White Grill again. Certain allowances were grandfathered in under the trademark, such as the ability to not have public restrooms in the 11-seat diner. Childs is the fourth owner of the diner, he said. It's the only Snow White Grill left out of nine that opened across Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
He bought the diner right before the recession hit, and lack of progress along the downtown mall has slowed his business, he said.
"The town promised us renovation," Childs said. "Instead, we got stagnation. ... I believe that if the powers in charge were to come through with their promises ... I think this grill will be fine, but I am out of time."
He noted several hindrances to his business, such as the halt on renovation of the historic Taylor Hotel, the closing of the downtown Patsy Cline Museum and the lack of events and retail stores along the mall.
"There are so many restaurants and so few people," he said, adding that restaurants such as his that don't serve alcohol tend to not fare well. Also, he's been on a mission to keep the food prices low.
Since buying the Grill in February 2008, he has made dozens of changes to the menu and raised the reputation of the historic site, where Patsy Cline often used to eat, he said.
"The heart and soul of the grill are the regulars and the stories," he said.
One couple trudged through a snowstorm after their wedding because they wanted the Snow White Grill to provide their first meal. A black-and-white picture of Edward G. Swartz, still a local resident and the first customer, hangs on the diner's wall. The restaurant has over 3,000 fans on Facebook, and guests often return to sign their name next to their pictures on the wall.
"I don't want to be the one to shut the door," Childs said. "But we have tried."