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BUSINESS

Bistro planned for former Thumpers location

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The former Thumpers Downtown Bar & Grille is shown shortly before it went out of business in September 2015. A new tenant plans to transform the former restaurant part of the business, shown through the right side window, into a future bistro.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, April 2, 2018

A section of the former Thumpers Downtown Bar & Grille will be revived as a future bistro.

Thumpers, which was located at Colonial Avenue and Poindexter Street downtown, closed in September 2015. George Jackson, a co-landlord of the empty building, said he has a new tenant for the part of the building that served as the restaurant area of Thumpers. 

On Friday, Janne Mills, of Elizabeth City, said she will have a financial stake in the future bistro, with her son being the chef. Mills said her son has wanted his own restaurant.

"I think downtown is getting ready to explode," Mills said, of the business potential for a bistro. “I'm so excited about downtown right now."

Mills said she didn't want to be too specific in commenting about the future bistro and refrained from naming her son, the chef.

She said word got out on Facebook and resulted in a family member being bombarded with messages, which she said was overwhelming. She said the future bistro's opening date is pending.

"It will not be in weeks," she said, noting the space will undergo a substantial renovation. She said the future bistro's name is pending and what's specifically going to be on the menu is a work in progress.

Mills said she and family members had been looking at quite a number of places for the home of the restaurant.

She said she liked the location's proximity to Ghost Harbor Brewing Co., as well as to other restaurants, such as Hoppin' Johnz New South Cuisine, Toyama Japanese Restaurant and Island Breeze Grill.

Mills is administrator of the Heritage Care of Elizabeth City assisted living facility. Her family has deep roots in the Harbor of Hospitality and her parents are the late John and Annette Copley. John Copley was a mailman. Annette Copley was a teacher in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools System.

Mills noted her parents were known locally for taking three busloads of seventh-graders to Washington, D.C., for a week each year.

According to past news reports, the Thumpers building dates as far back as the 1890s, with the location having once served as a warehouse for a hardware store owned by J.W. Sharber and B.F. White.

Thumpers went out of business more than 2½ years ago. The newspaper later obtained documents showing Thumpers had been cited by the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission for violating regulations.

Last November, the Elizabeth City City Council approved a Business Improvement Grant of $11,131, with the funding to cover about a third of a $32,264 renovation of the former Thumpers location.

Elizabeth City Downtown Inc. Director Deborah Malenfant at the time said the building needed extensive repairs if the location is to attract a new tenant. At the time, she said the building presents "a perception of decline" in the downtown area.

Jackson owns property locally and also presently serves as a professor of business, economics and management at Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach. He's presently a partner with local real estate agent Matt Wood in co-owning the site of the former Thumpers.

"We have been very particular with what we've let happen to that building, because both of us have a significant investment in surrounding properties," Jackson said.

"So, we haven't been trying to just collect rent on that building, but rather to get it so that it meshes with the things that are either going on right now or are planned," he said.

"And I think that this is just an ideal combination," he said.

Asked what he believes the eating establishment is going to do for the heart of downtown, Jackson said, "I think that it's going to complement the businesses that are already there."

"It's not going to be in direct competition because of the unique offering that it has," he said.

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