Last fall, Waynesburg lost one of its most popular restaurants when Hot Rod’s House of Bar-B-Que caught fire at around 4 a.m. Sept. 6.
While it was instantly clear that it’d be a while before the restaurant could resume operations, owners Rodney and Stephanie Phillips were hoping to have their restaurant up and running before the end of March.
The renovation process however hasn’t been ideal, and Hot Rod’s is still closed indefinitely. When asked to comment, Hot Rod’s said there were no new updates to report regarding if and when the restaurant will reopen.
Prior to the fire, the Phillips had planned on selling the restaurant that they have owned for more than a decade. The intention was for the family to move to accommodate their son’s pursuit of a bull-riding career. The fire, however, put a dent in those plans.
When Kristy Valet, owner of 5 Kidz Kandy, found out what had happened at Hot Rod’s, she was devastated to hear that such a tragedy had struck a local business. That sadness intensified when Valet saw the fire’s damage first hand walking by the restaurant.
“My heart was broken for [the Phillips family]” Valet said. “Somebody called, and myself and a friend walked up, and it was just— your heart was broken. It was tragic, especially having a business, you know how much time and effort, blood and sweat and tears that you put into that.”
Valet feels that losing Hot Rod’s for an extended period of time has negatively impacted not only Waynesburg residents, but also the other business operations in Greene County.
“I think anytime you lose a business, it directly affects all the other businesses,” she said. “With less people coming into town, it gives an overall feeling of sadness whenever you see something like that.”
While Valet isn’t close with either Rodney or Stephanie, those three—along with the rest of Greene County’s business owners—share a bond in working in a tight-knit area, and do what they can to help each other out, she said.
“We try to send each other business,” Valet said. “If somebody comes in and they have something that I don’t have, I have no trouble saying ‘well, try South Side Deli’ or any other place. And I know other businesses send people to me for things. We try and work together as much as possible. It’s a small community.”
Located around the corner of Hot Rod’s is Don Patron’s Mexican Grill. One of its managers, Alejandro Solis, said while business at Don Patron’s hasn’t been greatly affected because of what happened at Hot Rod’s—due to the two restaurants having drastically different food choices— there has been an impact.
“It has changed a little bit,” Solis said. “Not a lot, because the food is not the same, so we’ve lost a little bit of businesses, but not a lot.”
For Valet, Hot Rod’s was an attraction to those living and driving through Waynesburg, and its absence affects the people, and by the same token, the business aspect of Greene County.
“I think [Hot Rod’s] definitely brought a lot of people to town when they were open,” she said. “It affects everybody. When less people come into town, less people come in your store. If they’re not coming to town, and they’re not driving through, they cannot think about you.”
Valet has grown familiar with the cycle of her store going down in July and August before picking back up in September. This year, she said, business didn’t increase the way she had grown accustomed to.
“Usually in September, [5 Kidz] starts to pick back up, and this year I really have not seen an upswing in attendance,” Valet said. “I had a really good Valentine’s Day, but overall, the traffic isn’t what it used to be.”
While the fire that hit Hot Rod’s in the wee hours of an early Thursday morning had ramifications for the town of Waynesburg, above all else, Valet’s thoughts are with the Phillips family.
“I wish Steph and Rod all the best,” she said. “My heart still breaks for them.”