The Tractor Shed, a barbecue restaurant with a country décor, a model train running around the ceiling and a devoted following among local diners and tourists, has closed.
Owner Scott Surrette, who ran the Peddler steakhouse on King Street then later in the same White Street location where he located the Tractor Shed, plans to open an antique pawn shop in the building.
The Tractor Shed had suffered from the loss of its chef, Tom Young, who died suddenly of a heart attack last February.
"After eight spinal surgeries I can't be in the restaurant business anymore," Surrette said. "Business was good but physically and mentally I can't do it. It was too fast-paced for me. I'd get out and try to help in the dining room and I'd overdo it and be stuck in my chair for two days."
Under Young, the Tractor Shed had offered authentic hickoy-smoked barbecue and traditional side dishes like macaroni and cheese, collard greens and baked beans but also less conventional fare that went beyond traditional meat-and-three choices. The owner and chef of Expressions, the popular and highly regarded high-end restaurant in the 100 block of Main Street, Young brought experience and creativity that made the Tractor Shed more than strictly a barbecue joint.
Customers were still pulling up to the restaurant Friday and Saturday, unaware that it had closed.
"It closed, with food that good?" said a woman who said she and her husband had often stopped off to eat there on the drive from their South Carolina home to Maggie Valley.
Another couple and their young son drove up Saturday afternoon.
"We liked it. He liked the train," said Megan Yount, pointing to her son.
Last Sunday, Surrette said a church bus from Gaffney, S.C., pulled in to the restaurant, as the group had done several times before. The restaurant had already closed.
Surrette had undergone back surgeries to fix damage caused from a car wreck in February 2007 when a wrong-way driver crashed into his truck on King Street near the old Peddler.
He said he plans to open Surrette's Antique and Pawn, specializing in watches, jewelry, guns, "antiquey stuff," and even tractors and antique and collectible cars outside. He also hopes to rent out vendor spaces in the part of the building that housed a bar.
"I don't want to have a seedy pawn shop," he said. "I want to have something nice, kind of a family pawn shop. No smoking and no cussing."
He said since word spread over the past few days, he's had "lots of inquiries" about use of the space in the antique pawnshop.
Rep. McGrady helps 'primitive man'
Tasting my way to the top