GLADEWATER – Entrepreneurs Tim Barnett and Dale Rhodes, who grew a friendship amid coaching children’s sports, could be described as ordinary dads who dared to think big and act on it.
Their latest adventure – opening a restaurant and craft beer venue in Gladewater – started out as a simple sharing of an idea – wouldn’t it be fun to create a place where families could go unwind a bit, enjoy a good meal and engage in grownup conversations?
The men, who both hold day jobs in banking and real estate investing, envisioned a charming, friendly place where everybody knows your name and food and beverage menus feature imaginative choices, sans corporate logos.
Could they - should they - combine efforts and give it a go?
Amid all the brainstorming, a for-sale sign popped up in front of a shabby old building in the heart of Gladewater … a diamond in the rough for two guys willing to chase a dream and own it.
“It was actually an old Texaco at one time,” Rhodes said. “It’s one of the first recorded deeds in the area.”
It served other purposes over the years, including a hamburger joint and an antiques mall, resulting in a mishmash of styles and eras.
After purchasing the property, the new business partners got right to work, relying on skilled tradesmen to help transform the 1930s-era filling station into Gladewater’s newest endeavor, Central Station Brick & Brew, a restaurant and live entertainment venue at 103 N. Main St.
It was dirty, detailed, demanding work for all, but the longtime friends said it was worth every headache.
“This started out as a little project that’s grown into a bigger project,” Barnett said with a grin. “We wanted this to be a place where people can come and hang out. We think this is it.”
A VENUE IS BORN
From the outside looking in, it’s not immediately obvious the location once served as a gasoline service station.
But step inside and it’s clear the station was a working man’s workplace.
It features original bay doors, exposed brick, original wood, soaring ceilings and touches of Americana garage throughout.
Walls are adorned with black and white photographs of simpler times, including panoramic images of the town’s early days with the old gas station sitting front and center.
Vintage gas station memorabilia, road signs, doodads and car parts are scattered throughout, including an original parts bin plucked from an old barn in Upshur County.
Even the original restrooms were spared, brightly colored tiles and all.
A small stage serves as home to visiting music artists. Industry experts from Nashville were sought to assist with sound and acoustics for quality listening experiences, Rhodes said.
Celebrated recording artist John Berry is set to perform June 16 and 17 during the restaurant’s grand opening weekend with scheduling information available on Facebook and www.gladewatercentral.com .
There is a wood fired brick oven and a menu chocked full of chef-inspired options: pizzas, steaks, sandwiches, salads and desserts, featuring fresh ingredients such as Winona peaches.
Central Station, which employs about 58 people, features more than a dozen different wines, Texas craft beers and even special sodas for a nostalgic touch.
There is plenty of outdoor seating and a rooftop deck to watch East Texas sunsets.
The men said extraordinary care was extended to preserve the past, so it can be enjoyed for future generations.
Gladewater Main Street Manager Kathy Cannon is among those applauding the efforts.
“Everyone is so excited about the new location and can’t wait for the live entertainment,” she said. “The new restaurant brings a warm, friendly and inviting atmosphere for all ages.”
Now that the construction debris is cleared, one might wonder if the dads’ friendship survived the dream renovation.
“Absolutely,” Barnett said. “We’d do it again … Gladewater needed something like this.”
Rhodes added, “We’re having a good time.”
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