Honey’s could move, owner says
The owner of the Honey’s Restaurant, the more than 50-year-old sole surviving location of what was once a restaurant chain in North and South Carolina, said there’s a good chance he will have to move the restaurant.
The restaurant business is owned by Buck Dickerson, who started working third shift at Honey’s and eventually bought the business from the original owner along with his brother. The building and the land are under different ownership, and Dickerson said the owner is looking into alternative uses for the property on Guess Road.
“(The owner) will probably do something different with the property eventually, and we have been in discussions about that,” Dickerson said Tuesday. “So there is probably a very good possibility that I will move and change locations. With that said…there have been no papers signed for me to move.”
The owner of the property is Chapel Hill-based Holmes Oil Co., a developer of Cruizer’s Convenience Marketplace gas stations. The company has 21 gas stations in the Triangle area, said Edward Holmes, company president.
Holmes confirmed that he’s looking into other uses for the property, but he declined to provide details on Tuesday
“We are looking into…alternatives,” Holmes said.
Dickerson said rumors have been circulating for several years that the restaurant will be closing. He said he’s heard rumored closing dates happening in October, in November, December and in February.
“I think today’s March 19, and we’re still here and operating,” he said. “There is a huge distinction (between) closing and moving,” he added.
Dickerson said he plans to move the restaurant to another location in North Durham, although he has no specific plans at this time.
“I will be frank with you and tell you there’s probably a very good possibility that we will be moving locations,” he said. “I can tell you very definitively that won’t happen for … the next three to four months minimum, and it could be up to a year.”
Honey’s is a country home cooking American food restaurant, Dickerson said. It serves breakfast as well as seafood, sandwiches and dishes such as fried chicken, country fried steak, and chicken salad.
The restaurant is the surviving location in what used to be a chain, he said. He said the original owner was Y.L. Honey Sr., a Charlotte-based entrepreneur and who owned restaurants and hotels.
David Bedinger, vice president at Honey’s Inc., said Honey started his business with an ice cream shop in the 1930s in Thomasville. At the peak, he said, the company had more than a dozen restaurants, some with the Honey’s name.
He said Honey liked to “dabble,” and his pursuit of many different business ventures prevented him from starting one chain.
“I think Mr. Honey was always looking at what was going on in the world,” Bedinger said. “If you look at when he was trying to expand, it was when the highways in the ’60s and ’70s – that’s when the interstate highway system was expanding, and he saw that as a tremendous opportunity….he was trying to emulate, I think, companies like Shoney’s and things like that.”
Bedinger said the lease agreement for the Honey’s in Durham started in 1961. He said the property was originally owned by Kenan Oil Co., and the property transferred to Holmes Oil Co. with a sale of Kenan business and property.
Honey’s Inc., which is now a Charlotte-based business focused on leasing real estate, transferred its interest in the Honey’s in Durham to Buck Dickerson and his brother Mel in 2008, and licensed the name. The company still has some equity stakes in some restaurants, but is focused on real estate.
“That would the be the last vestige of what Mr. Honey started in 1932,” Bedinger said of the Honey’s in Durham.
Dickerson said he believes the Durham restaurant opened in 1960, and he started working there in 1980. He and his brother were able to acquire the Durham restaurant, and he later bought his brother’s share.
He said the restaurant has been impacted by the downturn in the economy and by increased competition.
He cited competition from Cracker Barrel, which opened on Hillsborough Road in 1997, and from the IHOP on North Pointe Drive, which opened in 2004.
“Certainly competition has increased over the years, and that’s made a difference in our business,” he said.
However, he said Honey’s still has many longtime, loyal customers. They also continue to get business from travelers off of I-85, which is what he calls “gravy.” They depend on the locals, he said, but business from the interstate is something nice to have.
He said he believes the Honey’s location is arguably one of the best in Durham because of its visibility from I-85 and other factors.
“I’m sure it will be a prime location for any business operating here for many, many years to come,” he said.
Dickerson said he has not been involved in the property owner’s meetings with other businesses. He said the property owner is not considering opening a Sheetz gas station on the site, but wouldn’t be surprised to see a food chain locating there.
“I certainly would not be surprised if you saw a very major, major very well known food chain,” he said.