A Lexington Tradition in Transition
New Owners May Bring Back Burgers,
Biscuits Back to Kenney's

The Lexington News-Gazette
Wednesday, April 4, 2001
Section: Business
By Claudia Schwab, Staff Reporter

Kenney's, a Lexington institution, may have new owners, but it's still Kenney's and always will be.

Of that the new owners are determined.

The 35-year old restaurant at the top of the hill off Waddell Street still sports the same signage and the same menu and may even see the return of some of the favorites from the past.

"Everything's the same so far", said Kathy Goodbar, who to together with Dawn Mays took over ownership of the restaurant March 1. "There's a lot of pressure from the community for a return of the burgers."

Goodbar is referring to the special sauce burgers that the original owner started but the restaurant ceased making about a year ago.

"We may start back with them in May", said Goodbar. "We wanted to have a good working crew in place so that we knew we could handle the volumn first."

Altogether there are seven employees plus the two owners.

The previous owners, Junior, Linda and Sarah painter, helped with the transition, and previous cashier Rebecca Deacon stayed on a month to help train the new people. But, even more important, veteran employee Joyce Wilmore has continued working at Kenney's. Mays and Goodbar call her "the backbone of the chicken" because she not cleans and bones their well-known chicken but she "does background work that keeps the place going," they said.

And another veteran Kenney's employee, Mae Rowsey,is back.

"Mae worked here for 15 years and has been gone for 12 years, but it's as if she never left", said Goodbar.

Rowsey is excited to reinstitute her well-known biscuits, said Goodbar.

Kenney's biggest seller is chicken, but foot-long hot dogs and barbecue and fish sandwiches are also popular. The restaurant is also known for its homemade chicken salad, biscuits and honey, and shakes.

Along with sauce burgers, there has been a groundswell of requests to reinstitute the breakfast menu, said Goodbar. The new owners are waiting on that as it means increasing their hours, among other things. They are now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. MOnday through Saturday.

"It's not a new business, but we're in a transition period and we hope people will be patient", said Mays. "What we want everyone to know is we're trying to maintain the level of service and the quality of food that they're used to."

The new owners met and became friends about 10 years ago. In the past, the restaurant has been a family-owned one. This is the first time the restaurant has been owned by a partnership.

"Together we make a good whole for this business", noted Goodbar. "Our qualitites complement each other's."

'When you mention Kenney's, everybody has a story.'
- Kathy Goodbar

Goodbar, 42, who is originally from Pennsylvania and moved to Rockbridge County in 1981, said she always wanted to own a restaurant.

"I started in food service early - my first job was when I was 14 in Pennsylvania and I've been doing it off and on forever", she said.

Mays, 36, grew up in Rockbridge County, and her background is in sales. She is a 1983 graduate of the former Rockbridge High School and has an associates degree in small business management from Dominion Business School. She has also done occupational therapy at Shenandoah Valley Health Center.

In the past, both Goodbar and Mays worked at the Southern Inn as well as a number of other restaurants, and they both currently have full-time day jobs.

Goodbar is a deputy clerk for the Rockbridge County Circuit Court, and Mays is a financial specialist for First Union Bank. Their jobs do not prevent them from being hands-on workers at the restaurant every minute they can, however.

My husband used to be a regular here, and he was thrilled when we bought it", said Mays, who is married to Mark Mays. Dawn Mays also remembers Kenney's from firsthand experience.

When you mention Kenney's, everbody has a story", said Goodbar. "Thursday night was cruising night and the guys had to squeal the tires at least once and that's why there are speed bumps. The cars were three and four rows deep."

The Painters retired at the end of February after owning the restaurant for 10 years. Even though it was time for them to retire, they did not leave without some regrets.

"We want to thank our loyal customers and friends who supported Kenney's over the past 10 years", said Linda Painter. "The time had come for a change and we decided to hang up our 'tongs' and throw away our 'aprons' and retire from the food industry.

"With this came sadness, but we wish the best to the new owners and their management team and hop the communitygives them their support", she added.

Copyright April 4, 2001

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