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Just 5 Months Old, The Holmes Place Is Expanding

This article first appeared in issue 17, and was written by Ed Waggener.

It is one of those milestones new restaurants dream of-the first faithful regular.

Every morning it happens at 5:15 a.m.

"I'm in here getting the coffee ready and preparing to open at 5:30," Gene Holmes says.

"And every morning, there's this same man standing outside banging on the door.

"We don't open until 5:30," Holmes hollers through the door.

"I'm cold and I'm hungry and I need a cup of coffee," the man says.

"Go home and come back at 5:30," Holmes answers.

"Can't go home," the man answers, "Karen won't let me."

"And every morning," Holmes says, " I have to let him in."

Everybody in Christine knows that the man is Murrell Burton, known to most Adair Countians as the auction man, to many others as an Adair County school bus driver, as a civic leader in his hometown of Vester, and as a fixture at Holmes Place in neighboring Christine.

Burton and the other regulars and the folks who drive up from Columbia and Russell Springs and Liberty are the big reason why things are going so well for the Holmes, he says, "And the people from Indiana. They come home and eat with us and like what they have and tell others and then they come and the story repeats. If we are a success," Holmes says, "we owe it to our friends, our customers."

When Jeanetta and Gene Dale Holmes opened The Holmes Place Restaurant in May, they knew they would succeed, but they hardly dreamed the business would grow so fast.

They thought that the 28 seats, with customers coming in steadily through the day, would suffice. But they were wrong.

Now they find that, especially on Friday nights when the special is fresh Mississippi farm-raised catfish, they have people standing in line, waiting for tables. When they double seating, they hope that will hold for awhile.

The success of the Friday fish has the Holmes thinking of a country ham Saturday, instead of the from-the-grill Saturday menu they offer now.

"We're picking our competition well, aren't we?" Holmes asks. "I mean, the nearest rival we have in fish is in Russell Springs; and now we're taking on Sulphur Well in ham!"

"I'm going to be as picky about my ham as I am about my fish. Until I got so busy at the mill, I'd cook all the fish on Fridays. I want the fish cooked to a golden brown, done throughout, but not overcooked. I don't like dried out fish and I won't serve it to our customers."

The restaurant was a long time dream for the Holmes. "I remember eating lunch here 26 years ago when Charles and Dorothy Buescher ran this place," he says. "I was working for Donald Burton, building milking parlors, at the time. I'd get a quart of milk, a bologna and cheese sandwich, and a little cake for $1.40." It was always an enjoyable place.

Even then Holmes was thinking of a way to have his own food business. And he married Willie and Allene Foster's daughter, Jeanetta; she was and is a great cook.

The idea to have their own restaurant really took hold around 10 years ago. At first, Gene wanted to build at the crossroads in Knifley, but Jeannetta didn't want to leave Christine for any other place on earth, not even a community like Knifley, one of her favorites.

But when the Central Building in Downtown Christine became available earlier this year it was a dream come true for both of them. The Holmes Mill, which Gene runs with his father, Rollin, was doing well and they decided to move ahead. They had worried about parking, but good neighbors Vaughn and Kay Burton told them he would work with them on that, and they have. "We've got more parking spaces now than we have seats, with the space Vaughn made available to us."

They could run the restaurant on the main floor, a game room in the basement, and have a spacious home above the store.

The living arrangement, they think, has been a big part of their success. "We're right here. If there's a problem, we can fix it without worrying about the drive.

Jeannetta Holmes had been a deputy county clerk for seven and a half years. She loved working there for Adair County Court Clerk Joyce Rodgers and her deputies. But cooking was in her genes, just as retailing was in Gene Dale's, whose grandfather Lindsey Holmes ran a store at Neatsville, and grandfather Marvin Burton ran a little grocery store where the Cecil Keltner place is today on Taylor Ford Road.

The Holmes celebrate their 25th anniversary on January 16, 1998. They have two children now. A third child, the middle one, Christopher Rollin Holmes, died when he was 10 years old." He would started fifth grade," Mrs. Holmes remembers. "He was a wonderful child. It was so sudden. He suddenly had headaches. He had a brain tumor. Despite everything the doctors could do, Chris died in week. It's something we never forget."

Their daughter Lindsey Holmes, a senior at Adair County High, works in the restaurant. Her cooking specialty is peach cobbler. The other daughter is Melanie Willis, the wife of Lloyd Willis. She's a whiz with cheese cake topped with cherries .

Mrs. Holmes herself specializes in hot fudge cake. As with the other items on the menu, the price, 75 per serving, is kept low.

Through the week, hot meals with a meat, two side dishes, and bread has been kept at $2.99, but the Holmes admit they may have to nudge that price up a little, but not yet.

Right now he's challenging the big national country eatery, with plans for pinto beans cooked on a real wood cookstove, served with cornbread muffins, onions, and relish, for $1.50.

Nothing pricey about that.

This story was posted on 1997-10-31 12:01:01
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