SOLON— Word is out that another Main Street restaurant is gone. Reggie’s Weenies of Solon shuttered their doors last week. I noticed the for lease sign, then it was taken down, then the lights were off during the breakfast service and people started talking. Telltale signs of the end in a small town.
Partly, the restaurant never took off. Every time I dined there, either mine was the only table with customers, or maybe one other. The menu may have been part of the problem. One morning while I was having breakfast, Reggie mentioned how popular biscuits and gravy are among the breakfast crowd. He had no wait staff but himself, and had to tend to the gravy, so he couldn’t elaborate. He sold a lot of biscuits and gravy— but not enough.
While “weenies” is in the name of the place, and Reggie got his start selling Chicago-style hot dogs at Nile Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on game days, he expanded the menu beyond hot dogs and was a skilled chef. The dishes I tried were tasty and had plate appeal. Word about the menu didn’t get around town, despite Reggie’s marketing efforts.
Part of the problem may have been a dispute with one of his original business partners, which caused people to line up on sides. There was an informal boycott of the place for a while, but that wasn’t the reason for the problems.
When Smitty’s Bar and Grill closed before Reggie remodeled the space, the cook and wait staff moved to a new breakfast operation at the American Legion down Main Street. The legion became the place to have breakfast in Solon, leaving Reggie and his investment in the lurch.
Since we moved to the area, there have been at least six different restaurants in that space. Maybe the building has a restaurant curse on it. Reggie tried to make it, as entrepreneurs with an idea do. The new microbrewery opening this summer across the street, with chefs trained in culinary school, may have been the final straw. No one was at Reggie’s Weenies when I knocked.
Reggie was a friendly guy. I hope he lands someplace good. Good people usually do.