Questions still remain after Goreville restaurant closes
Good news arrived in the mail Tuesday for several employees of Goreville’s recently closed restaurant, K-n-K Kitchen, in the form of a paycheck, but several questions still remain on its future and what led to its unexpected closure.
The Goreville Gazette reached out to several employees in town with all but one wishing to remain anonymous and with each expressing mixed feelings on the situation.
The Gazette also tried to reach out to owner Keith “Shorty” Jones and building owner Kimberly Shaw, who was believed to be his “silent partner,” only to discover their numbers were no longer in service.
On Tuesday, now former employee and prep chef Monica Gibbs stopped by the Gazette Office and provided the Gazette with a copy of a letter that arrived with her partial paycheck. It included a new phone number for Jones, which the Gazette used to reach him. Jones said he was upset that talk was being made claiming that Shaw had anything to do with the business other than being a friend who was helping him out.
“I don’t know what [employees who claim she was a partner] were thinking,” Jones said. “She was out there helping me, yes, but she was only helping me, she doesn’t own the restaurant, I own the restaurant. She’s a friend of mine.”
Remington Land, LLC in a partnership between Johnson County residents Bob Wolfe and Kimberly Shaw own the building, Wolfe said last week. He added that he was speaking with Jones daily over the circumstances surrounding what will become of the restaurant and that currently they are trying to get a new operator into the building as quickly as possible.
The sudden loss of the restaurant last week left many wondering how it could have closed so quickly after open for only 34 days. Jones said the reason he closed was because he could not afford to keep running it at a loss. He said he was concerned about the employees losing their jobs and that he was doing everything possible to make sure they were paid.
“I lost a lot in this transition. It wasn’t just them, I lost a lot,” Jones said. “It took me over $100,000 to fix the restaurant so it would pass health inspection. I’m the one that had to do all the work and I got no support from it.”
Jones said that business did not live up to expectations and that while most people eating in his restaurant enjoyed his food, there were not enough customers to keep the doors open.
“I tried my best to make the restaurant work and it just didn’t work,” Jones said, adding that he could not force people to eat at his restaurant. “I can’t make people come to the restaurant and eat. You can’t make somebody come there and eat. If not enough people come there and eat you’re not going to survive.”
Jones said he was upset in having to close the restaurant and that on the night he held his staff meeting to inform his employees of the closing that he was in tears. He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do. But some, like prep chef Gibbs, felt that he did not do enough to make it work and that questions still remained over the management of the restaurant.
Gibbs said she was relieved to have received a paycheck Tuesday for a portion of the hours she worked and said she was relieved that her co-workers were getting paid as well, but she said she still felt uneasy about Shaw’s role in the restaurant. She claimed that Shaw was present more than Jones and that she was more than just a friend who happened to also have ownership in the building.
“Kimberly Shaw was sitting in the office, we had to sign an at-will contract of some sort, not exactly sure [what it was], and she would not give us a copy of it,” Gibbs said. “She’s the one who took my driver’s license, she’s the one who took my social security card, but yet, now they’re trying to say, she’s not part of the business. It’s either, Keith broke confidentiality by giving my personal information to this woman who has nothing to do with the business or she has something to do with the business. It can’t be both ways.”
Gibbs said she was still in shock Friday in learning that the restaurant had closed as she had not received a phone call from either Jones or Shaw about the closing and only learned of it when a co-worker called to talk about it.
“I don’t feel like I’m bitter; I mean, I got paid today,” Gibbs said. “There’s no, really, retaliation that I feel against him, I just feel he made some poor business choices.”
Gibbs said it was hard to not question Shaw’s involvement in running the business with Jones as she participated in the management of the restaurant. Shaw was left in charge of the business when Jones went out of town the first week K-n-K was open. Her name is included in title of the restaurant, Keith and Kim’s Kitchen, and she was involved in the daily operation of the business from the first day it opened its doors, Gibbs said.
“Kimberly Shaw had nothing to do with this restaurant,” Jones re-iterated. “I was the owner.”
Jones said he is in the process of selling off equipment and food still left in the freezers and would do his best to quickly get his employees paid.
“I’ve lost everything, but I still care about my employees getting their checks,” Jones said. “I didn’t give any money to myself or do anything for myself; I care about them first. And to me, sending out checks, if that doesn’t prove it I don’t know what else I can do. I mean, I’m not a genie; I can’t make money appear.”
Jones said he made several attempts in securing financial backing that would have allowed him to stay open, but nothing materialized.
“I tried getting a loan, I tried getting a financial backer, nobody came forward, or no one was willing to help,” Jones said. “If I had a financial backer the restaurant would still be open.”
As of today, a signs sign still hangs on the front door, “Closed, Sorry, We Tried,” and is signed, “Shorty.”