I've lived in Durham now for five months, and to help adjust to my new home I've been keeping a mental list of the things I love about it: Bullock's, the Country Store, free videos from the Durham Public Library, Michelle's Untidy Museum, etc.
I just learned one of my top five might be leaving town. I'm talking about Biscuit King on the corner of Ninth and Green streets. The place with sandwiches made on hockey puck-sized (at least they're that big in my dreams) homemade biscuits, pecan pie in the mornings and "sweet shot" chicken for lunch.
While getting some pie and coffee the other morning I heard that their landlord, the owners of the Ninth Street North shops across the street, will be shutting them down soon so they can build another retail and office space complex in its place. I decided I'd do what I could to help them, so I got in touch with the landlord, and left him a message saying I was a concerned citizen who lived in the neighborhood who wanted to know the facts.
Glen, the King's landlord, called me back the same day. To their credit, Ninth Street North has offered to move the King into available space across the street at a reduced rent, but it looks like even that reduced rent is more than Biscuit King is willing or perhaps able to pay. Glen also told me that they've worked extensively with John Schelp of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association to make sure that their development creates a "wall in zoning." This means no more commercial buildings will be allowed to creep past the corner of Ninth and Green streets. All sound, reasonable and responsible business solutions.
But it doesn't make the potential loss of Biscuit King any less of a loss. For those who don't know, the King is open from 6:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., weekdays only. Jerry and Bonnie Turner drive over 50 minutes to and from Yanceyville each day and it's been in Bonnie's family for more than 20 years. Kim and Lisa who work behind the counter have nearly as long commutes and they all say they want to keep doing it, but it may make more sense for them to close up the Durham shop and open up a new one closer to home.
And this is not fast food folks, it's homemade biscuits covered with jelly, sausage, steak and gravy, or chicken fillet goodness with "vegetables." And all at an affordable price served by people who make an effort to learn your name or make one up for you (one customer is referred to as "Old Meanness"). I'm all for expansion in Durham, and I really do love the Indian restaurant, Dale's, that has recently opened in Ninth Street North. I guess I'm just sad that both sides have decided the King has to go.
What I'm trying to say is I have biscuit needs, hockey-puck-sized biscuit needs and sometimes pie that I'm not sure new retail shops can fill. I don't know what can be done to make them reconsider the landlord's offer. A sudden upswell of business, maybe? Maybe the shaky economy will delay development for a while longer and Glen and the King can be persuaded to keep working on a compromise.
But if you haven't been to Biscuit King before, or if it's been a while, stop by the corner of Ninth Street and Green and tell them you care; they'll appreciate it. They have tomatoes from their garden for sale in the summer, and this winter they're featuring a homemade chicken vegetable soup every day.