Geno’s restaurant closing after 37 years

Wil Petty

April 20, 2014

Geno’s restaurant will close its doors once and for all after dinner on Sunday, April 27, after its building was bought by Boondocks Brewing.

”We were getting tired,” said Janet Waln who owns the restaurant with her husband Ronnie and Michael and Terry Hodges. “We have been running it for 21 and a half years and business has changed a lot.”

Geno’s began serving the people of Ashe County in 1976 when the original owner, Geno Carbosano opened an Italian restaurant where the Hobby Barn now resides. Nearing 40 years of service, the restaurant was considered by many to be a West Jefferson institution.

Waln said the restaurant moved to its current location in 1993.

“The town has been good to us,” she said. “We’ve had a good experience and none of us regret it at all.”

Selling the restaurant wasn’t easy for those who have owned the establishment for 21 years. Geno’s had been for sale since 2012, but the owners were not going to sell it to just anybody.

“We had a lot of people look, but we didn’t want to sell to just anybody,” Waln said. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this place, when it’s family-owned, it can get pretty sticky at times.”

Waln said the closure of Geno’s will be very bittersweet.

“(Friday, April 18) we told our staff and there wasn’t a dry eye here,” she said. “They are like family. Some of them have been here for seven or eight years.”

Boondocks is allowing all Geno’s employees to apply for the jobs and the three longest workers have already been hired.

Boondocks owner Gary Brown started talking to the owners of Geno’s in October of last year. On Friday, April 18, the purchase was official after Brown spoke with the staff of the restaurant.

The building, which will be named the Boondocks Brewing Brew Haus, will transform the restaurant into a brewery and meeting space.

“The Brew Haus it’s not going to be a restaurant,” Brown said. “We’re going to put in a larger brewery so we can do distribution off the mountain.”

Brown said the changes in construction will begin May 1, and he is preparing to host an open house in August or September.

The building will have several uses including being used as a brewery to sell Boondocks beer across the state and to keep a constant supply of its beer on tap, and being used as a space for beer and wine dinners, receptions, parties and other social functions.

“If we’re not doing brewery tours, if we’re not running events or we’re not doing brewing, the door’s will be locked and nobody will be there,” Brown said. “We’re hoping there will be enough events and business that it will be open for two or three days a week.”

Brown said the Boondocks beers that will regularly be on tap include: JMB Stout, Three Top, Truth Serum and Dark Secret. In addition, Boondocks plans to provide tours of the brewery. There will be a miniature tasting bar for brewery visitors to sample.

Aside from the brewery, Brown said the site will also serve as extra kitchen space to help with catering.

“If somebody wants an off-site meeting space we can accommodate it,” he said. “Plus, we are doing quite a bit of catering out of the restaurant. This gives us a little bit more kitchen space to do that, so we’re not interrupting the restaurant itself.”

While the Geno’s sign will come down and the painting of the restaurant’s name may be replaced with the Boondocks’ “Boon Man” logo, the legacy of Geno’s will still be in Ashe County and the Brew Haus.

“It’s a good building and it’s got a good legacy to it,” Brown said. “What I’ve stressed to our staff and everybody I talked to is Geno’s, the business has been a halmark of West Jefferson since the ’70s. There’s a lot of mixed feelings being a part of them closing, but honestly that was not my decision.”

Some menu items from Geno’s will be added to the Boondocks menu, but right now there are no plans to serve pizza, other than the flatbread pizzas they already offer.

“There’s some things that Geno’s does that I think we would be crazy to not try and introduce,” Brown said.

In addition, Waln will also be joining the staff to help with catering and other services Boondocks provides.

“I’m not ready to not be working,” she said. “I just don’t want to be boss anymore.”

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty