Long-time Hinton staple Kirk’s Restaurant closed its doors for the last time on Friday, September 16, bringing about the end of an era. Since the late 1970s, Kirk’s has been serving up meals to the hungry citizens of Summers County. A business that thrives in a small area for such an extended period is bound to leave a lasting impression on the patrons it serves, and this hometown restaurant is no exception. Since its closing day, current and former residents have shared some of their favorite stories and memories featuring Kirk’s, the Home of the Hungry Smile.
Linda Gore Haskins worked at the restaurant for 18 years, beginning the same month it opened in 1977. Prior to running Kirk’s Restaurant full time with her husband, Nanny Kirk was a nurse at the old Hinton Hospital. Unfortunately, News broke that the hospital was closing. Soon after, Haskins went to work cooking at Kirk’s. She continued working there for several years after Wayne and Kathy Rice took over the business. During the last bit, Haskins worked at both Kirk’s and Kroger. She said, “Kirk’s Restaurant holds a lot of precious memories to me with all the busy times! Thank you all for everything! You all will be missed, also all the help all through the years that gave excellent service. God bless!”
Over the years, Kirk’s has been home to birthday parties, anniversary meals, job promotion celebrations, and marriage and pregnancy announcements. The list is endless. For one mother, the restaurant played a part in the day she gave birth to her daughter. On March 5, 2001, Hope Jones was laboring at New River Birth Center. She said, “Brent stopped at Kirk’s to get me a cooler of ice since it was my favorite! Two hours later, she [her daughter] was born.” Jones also reminisced about “too many Sunday dinners to count with Brent’s parents” at The restaurant. She said, “We could always get a ‘real’ meal with all the fixins! No place like it in all of Hinton!”
Though they no longer live in the area, Paul and Lexi Griffith worked at Kirk’s after moving to Hinton. According to Paul, the Rices were instrumental in helping them gain their own standing. He said, “Wayne was the only guy that gave Lexi and me a break when we arrived in Hinton in 2015. We arrived homeless and with a broken vehicle, but with help from Wayne, [we] quickly found our feet.”
Many beginnings and firsts have happened within the walls of Kirk’s, including some people’s first employment experiences. Billie Jean shared her story about moving to Hinton at age 18 and being freshly married. She said, “I got a job at Kirks restaurant soon after they opened for business, and worked for the previous owners Procter and Nannie Kay Kirk. I worked with Procters Bob and Maw Kirk, as we all called her. The best job ever. I worked [at Kirk’s] for around 17 years and I want to say I learned so much and was treated like family. The people I worked with were the very best. I will never forget working there and the friendships that were made. I am now 66, and that was my very first job. I will always love Kirks.”
Another story of working at Kirk’s comes from Stephanie O’Keefe. Both she and her sister worked at the restaurant under the original owners. She noted how many vital lessons they learned during their time there and how lucky they were to work with fantastic people.
Leslie Berry reminisced about being in school and her teacher allowing the students to order food from Kirk’s.
County Commissioner Ted Kula said, “I enjoyed joining Proctor and Melvin Plumley, Jimmy Worles, Gene Davis and a host of others for early morning coffee at Kirk’s. Proctor always did the crossword puzzle.”
Many others shared their memories of meeting friends and colleagues at the restaurant for meals, special moments and many other extraordinary stories. Memories abound at the small establishment, but while one era comes to a close, another may be on the horizon. The restaurant is currently for sale, and community hopes are high for the future and what it may hold.