Trying to track down news about Kountry Kupboard has been like taking swings at a piñata while blindfolded. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been able to reach a few conclusions.
For starters, Judy Coppinger no longer owns the restaurant located at Sunnyside Heights, which was long known as Nana’s Kountry Kupboard.
After 22 years, Judy sold the business over a year ago on Dec. 31, 2019 and Nana's was removed from the name.
“There have been plenty of people asking me about it, but I sold it,” said Judy, who said she's been asked many times about the restaurant while it's been closed for about a month. “If my health was good and I was better at walking and getting around, I would open it back up. But standing on my feet for 12 to 14 hours a day is too much. I can’t do it anymore.”
A car accident in 2004 resulted in Judy sustaining significant injuries. She had rods inserted in her back and she endured more than 300 stitches. She said she’s no longer spry enough to meet the demands of the restaurant industry.
As far as the fate of Kountry Kupboard, it is permanently closed, according to its Facebook page, which is now defunct too. I was on the Facebook page on Thursday and there was a message which plainly stated the restaurant would not be reopening.
So I did what many people would do. I sent a private message asking for more information about why the restaurant has closed. It seemed like a fair question. According to my Facebook records, I sent the private message on Thursday morning at 8:39 a.m.
When I checked back Friday to see if my message had been answered, I found the Kountry Kupboard page on Facebook had been completely taken down. It’s gone, nowhere to be found.
I was ghosted in my one and only attempt to reach Kountry Kupboard brass. I feel like a stalker who hasn’t done any stalking. Why was the Facebook page removed after I asked a simple question? Why?
This is a long way of saying I don’t know why Kountry Kupboard has closed, but it appears the restaurant has no intention of reopening, or providing a reason why. I’m OK with that.
For patrons who enjoyed eating at Kountry Kupboard, it’s time to find another place to frequent. May I suggest Chicken Chef or Prater’s BBQ. J’s Restaurant at Three Star Mall also has its appeal.
Saturday was the first official day of spring. Rejoice! Warm weather awaits.
For gardeners like me who just love planting and trying to give their yard some pop, there’s an elephant-sized absence this year. Mary’s Greenhouse has gone to that great flower bed in the sky, closing its doors after more than 40 years in business. For flower enthusiasts, this doesn’t seem fair.
But alas, there’s uplifting news to report. Three nurseries in the Eastside-Rock Island area are working to pick up the slack left by the departure of Mary’s Greenhouse from our local landscape.
Day Lily Nursery, Triple B Nursery, and Groundcover Farms all are going full speed ahead in hopes of giving local residents outlets to shop for their gardening needs.
“There’s no replacing Mary’s Greenhouse and we understand that,” said Day Lily Nursery owner Tim Hitchcock. “We were big customers of Mary’s ourselves. What we’re doing is we’re trying to hit the high points, the most popular items. We may not have as many varieties, but we’re hoping to cover all the basics.”
It’s been over three years since Day Lily Nursery has had a retail operation, but that’s changing this year. Hitchcock has hired Shay Edwards, a five-year employee at Mary’s Greenhouse, and there will be regular retail hours Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I learned the plants and I learned the ropes while I was at Mary’s,” said Shay. “I love this business. I know folks are ready to get out and play in the dirt and we’ll have everything they need. We’re still probably a couple weeks away.”
Day Lily Nursery will have all types of bulbs available, including tulips and horseradish. Said Tim, “If it grows from a bulb, we have it.”
Annuals on the way include the popular impatiens, zinnias, marigolds, and geraniums. Day Lily Nursery, located a 471 Mud Creek Road, can be reached at 686-5459.
Deimer and Ann Barnes have an interesting story at Triple B Nursery. They were dabbling with a few greenhouses when they decided to buy the nursery in a deal that closed on Halloween Day, 1996.
Now they have 41 cold-frame greenhouses and four heated greenhouses at a sprawling business at 4100 Old Rock Island Road. With Mary’s Greenhouse going out of business, Deimer said, “We’re planting as much as we can.”
Ann likes the people side of the business. She enjoys waiting on customers and she says, “I like to plant.”
Deimer jokes that his favorite part of the season is “seeing it all gone.” He points out the beautiful flowers seen at Super Rama stores and Cee Bee stores come from Triple B, which has three semis and does all its own deliveries. Deimer admits to enjoying the truck driving aspect of the business, as does his son, Tim.
Triple B has annuals and vegetables for sale. The vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, squash, peppers and broccoli.
There are all sorts of annuals crammed into the heated greenhouses. They are oh so tempting.
I was ready to walk out the door with a few flats on Friday when Deimer reminded me it’s still a few weeks away before it’s time to plant. Getting annuals in the ground at this time will likely only lead to disappointment should a frost hit. Then you’ll be wiped out.
Deimer also said Triple B supplies a large number of geraniums to the Boy Scouts. He says the Girl Scouts sell cookies, but the Boy Scouts sell geraniums in what’s a much quieter fundraiser.
Deimer and Ann say their most popular annual is probably vinca, also known as periwinkle, because it can withstand hot sun and requires minimal water. Begonias are also popular, they say.
Triple B can be reached at 686-8995.
Also enters retail
Groundcover Farms owner Janie Haston says it’s neat to collaborate with the other two nurseries to fill a void created by the departure of Mary’s because, “We’re all a little bit kin to one another.”
Janie traced her family tree to tell how she’s related to the Barnes family and the Hitchcock family. “We are all cut from the same cloth,” she said.
Janie adds, “Nobody does what Mary’s did, but I’m going to do some retail to try and make sure people have what they need. I’m used to big orders and loading trucks for landscapers, but I’m going to do this for the local residents for sure.”
Janie says this is currently her busy season as a chunk of her business is providing inventory for garden centers. She says the garden centers are wide open collecting inventory for the rush which is about to come.
“The urgency of this business has changed so much in the past few years,” said Janie. “With cellphones, you can take a picture of it and send it to them right away. If they like it, they’re coming your way to get it, sometimes driving from out of state that same day.”
Local residents may best know Janie as a 31-year employee of Gipson Insurance. While working there, she also had a hobby greenhouse and she’d do propagation for other nurseries over the weekend.
“I was a single mom trying to pay for my son’s education,” said Janie.
Her hard work paid off as her son, Matthew, graduated from UT-Knoxville with a degree in engineering.
The nursery business has been great, and it’s barely scraped by, Janie says. She remembers about a decade ago when it was hard to sell a plant. Now she has products flying out the door. She said her business has had anywhere from three to 20 employees, depending on need.
Groundcover Farms is located off Starlight Road at 222 Bird Lane. The phone number is 668-8874.
About Mary’s …
The bulk of this article has been devoted to businesses which are trying to pick up the slack due to the closing of Mary’s Greenhouse.
On Friday, I talked to Mike Hamby, one of the owners of Mary’s, to discuss rumors the business has been sold.
“I think we’re close but nothing has been finalized yet so we’re not going to talk about it,” said Mike. “It’s looking like it will happen, but you never know.”
I’ve noticed business deals have a way of collapsing so it’s probably a wise idea for the Mary’s Greenhouse crew to keep things quiet until the deal is finished. From what I’ve heard, and this may not be accurate, another agriculture business is looking at the property, but it won’t be anything like Mary’s so don’t expect to buy flowers there. That’s just word on the street.
That’s all folks
Next week’s column is already shaping up as a dandy. Email business tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.