Ham’s – The Houdini of Restaurants in North Carolina
Ham’s has been a part of my life for about as long as I can remember (minus the 4 years that I lived in Chattanooga, TN in the late 90s and early 2000′s). After baseball practices for Little League, our entire team would head up to the Ham’s on Skeet Club Road in High Point to have team meetings and devour basket after basket of their homemade chips with ranch. My parents would take me and my brother up to Ham’s another High Point location and I would sit entranced as the model train went back and forth along the tracks in the restaurant. #easilyamused
In college, there was a Ham’s Brewhouse, God rest its soul, in downtown Greenville, NC where they served some of the better microbrews that were around before the recent microbrew boom occured…especially for an 18-year-old kid whose license made him three years older. For the past few years, I have lived just a mile or two down the road from the original Ham’s where it had stood for 75 years, until recently, on Smyres Place off of Friendly Avenue in Greensboro and drive by it (but seldom eat there because it isn’t the cleanest place) daily to and from work. Needless to say, Ham’s and I go way back.
In October of 2009, Ham’s Restaurants (under the owner, Charles Erwin, who bought it back in the early 80s) filed for Chapter 11 which would allow them to continue operation as they worked to reorganize its business model and figure out how to get its lifeline back.
Even with all of the fond memories that I have of the place, I can’t say that I have been to one recently. The lack of my patronage (and a few other people’s) could have led to the issues that the Greensboro-based chain is having. In early April, the Greensboro News-Record announced that the original Ham’s was shutting its doors after 75 years of business.
In 1935, Newmer Ham opened Ham’s, offering curb service and deli-style food. Al Freiberg and Carl Herbst took it over in the 1940s. The popular restaurant — easily accessible to what would become UNCG and Grimsley High School — became a hangout for students.
The chain was a little more open about the closing of the original restaurant in Greensboro. The manager let locals know what was going on and they actually announced the closing in advance to let people come get their last meal or two for old time’s sake.
However, the Ham’s Brewhouse in Greenville, NC was not so vocal about it. In fact, the Greenville location just decided to lock up one day and post a sign on the door reading: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ham’s Restaurant and Brewhouse is closing for business. We greatly appreciate your patronage throughout the years. You will be missed.” According the The Daily Reflector, restaurant goers were seen walking away while shaking their heads in disbelief being denied the lunch they thought they were about to get.
However, there is good news coming out of this. The brewmaster, T.L. Adkisson, from the Greenville location is heading to Winston-Salem to become the head brewmaster at Foothills Brewery, my favorite North Carolina brewery, which makes some delicious beer. Check out their I.P.A. called Hoppyum if you have a chance. #delicious
In the April 5 article, the Greensboro News-Record reported that Charles Erwin, according to court documents, owes between $1 million and $10 million including more than $2.5 million in state and federal taxes. Obviously, there is a huge gap between $1 million and $10 million but an article published in the News-Record yesterday reported that Ham’s assets could be sold at auction or to family members.
Apparently, Ma & Pop Erwin are trying to bail out their son. On June 17th, they set up a company called Pika in which they propose to buy Ham’s assets for a quarter-million and possibly put their son back in charge even though he won’t have any financial stake or equity interest in the company unless he inherits it from his parents. Others interested in the bankruptcy need to make their voices heard (legally speaking: file a motion) before July 24th to be included.
If you are interested in jumping on this sinking ship, you might be able to get a piece for a good price at the bankruptcy auction being held in Wilson, NC at the US Bankruptcy Court on August 24th. If you would like a better return on your investment, send me whatever you are planning to spend on Ham’s and I will take half of it and then send you the other half back. Everyone will be a winner…somewhat.
If you don’t know about Ham’s, going to their Web site won’t help. It is shut down just like the original restaurant.