Taylors Eatery Enjoying Resurgence
A Taylors couple quit their jobs to bring back what was once a Taylors dining mainstay. Their business partner sold his own restaurant in Easley to help bring Harvey's new life. Now, the leap of faith is paying off.
Last May, the building at 3209 Wade Hampton Boulevard that once housed the popular Taylors eatery known as "Harvey's" was sitting empty.
At the same time, Bryan Harvey, 41, had long been selling plumbing supplies — an occupation that had become increasingly difficult and less fulfilling amid the floundering construction industry that has marked the recession.
Construction industry jobs in the Greenville metropolitan area, which topped 19,000 in August 2007, had fallen by nearly 8,000 by early 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Bryan's wife, Kristy, 35, had been in sales for years as well, most recently at Ballentine's Equipment Co. in Greenville.
"It's been very successful. We're pleased. We're never satisfied, but we're pleased."
It was in the middle of the country's festering economic stagnation that Bryan made a plan and pitched the idea of resurrecting Harvey's Family Restaurant, which his parents had operated from 1993 to 2000, to Kristy.
Bryan laughs while remembering what may have been one of toughest sells he's ever had to make.
"When I first brought it up to her, she didn't want anything to do with it," Bryan recalled.
Things were meant to be
The idea to bring back Harvey's wasn't one considered haphazardly. Bryan had brought up the idea before last May to his friend, 37-year-old Charles "Rusty" Rush, who he had been helping on nights and weekends at his Easley restaurant.
"Bryan had already approached me before about opening the restaurant back up at this building," Rush said. "I think the time hadn't been right for either one of us.
"But last May, I think Rusty was at a place, like I was, that he just felt like he needed to get out, and do something new."
Rush and Bryan both worked at the old Harvey's in the 1990's. Rush went on to leave Harvey's to start his own journey — he owned Nanny's Family Restaurant in Easley for 14 years.
Meanwhile, Bryan went on to find a niche in sales, and ultimately the Harveys and Rushes sold the restaurant in 2000. Three years later, the "Harvey's" name was stripped when the structure was sold again.
Since then, the spot on the boulevard had been at least two restaurants and a bar.
The Harveys and Rush agreed in May to open "The Original Harvey's Family Restaurant." Sometimes, it seems, things are, in fact, meant to be.
In a market where selling any property can be difficult at best and impossible at worst, Rush was able to unload his Easley restaurant almost immediately. Nationally, commercial property sales had dipped six percent in 2011's third quarter compared to the previous one, representing a continued slide in real estate performance, according to statistics from the National Association of Realtors.
"I mean, nothing was buying then," Rush said. "But I told one person (about his restaurant) and the next morning, I had it sold. Within two weeks, I'd moved.
"It was like a homecoming. It was a homecoming for Bryan and Kristy, but it was also one for me. I grew up here. I spent the first 20 years of my life here, and now I'm back home."
Offering Southern favorites
Kristy explained that she got the expected odd looks when she told people of her plans to open up a restaurant in the middle of the lagging economy.
"But then again, not a week went by when I wasn't stopped by someone telling us we were crazy for leaving in the first place," she said.
In the end, it wasn't just a longing for change that led to Harvey's re-opening. It was business sense. Harvey's menu boasts popular inexpensive Southern staples, based primarily around their meat and three selections.
Meats like hamburgers, grilled chicken, honey-dipped fried chicken, hot dogs, fried pork chops and meatloaf can be paired with the likes of fried green tomatoes, rice and gravy and perhaps the most-popular side item on the menu — their macaroni and cheese.
Most entrees are no more expensive than $7.25.
"Would we open up a white-tablecloth kind of place here? No," Kristy said. "And you probably wouldn't open up a place like this in downtown Greenville."
"We love to hear when someone says something they had here is almost better than their mother's or grandmother's," she added. "Of course, they can't say it is better, but if they're saying it's almost better, we must be doing something right."
The Harveys and Rush all say they've been surprised by the community response to Harvey's return to Taylors. With that return has come a resurgence.
"It's been great since the day we opened. This is the kind of place you'll see someone you know. It's somewhere you can bring family," Kristy said. "It's been very successful. We're pleased. We're never satisfied, but we're pleased."
Their business strategy was simple but profound. There simply were not many meat and three, Southern-style family eateries in Taylors.
"It's close to home, and just has good food," said Betty Parker, a regular customer from Taylors. "What else can you ask for?"
Bryan and Rush agree that business has exceeded the projections they laid out last year.
"We knew it worked here before, and we felt we could make it work here again," Bryan said.
A simple recipe, Rush explained, is sometimes the best one.
"People are still going to want to go out to eat," he said. "If you give people good food at a good price, they'll come."
You can find more articles from this ongoing series, “Dispatches: The Changing American Dream” from across the country at The Huffington Post.