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COVID-19 Claims Another Victim in Austin - Eddie Wilson Closes Threadgill's!

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by Deckard, Apr 24, 2020.

  1. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    Another Austin institution is gone. The original Threadgill's on North Lamar, owned by Eddie Wilson since 1981 as both a music venue and a terrific restaurant serving classic Southern style cooking, is for sale. This is where UT student Janis Joplin sang on Wednesday nights back in the day. It's easier for me to post the Austin Chronicle's story than to describe a place I have been to countless times over the years.

    Threadgill’s Old No. 1 Closes Permanently
    Pandemic closes a part of Austin history
    BY KEVIN CURTIN, 2:25PM, MON. APR. 20, 2020

    Threadgill’s, the Southern-fried eatery that’s long existed as a paragon of old Austin culture, will not reopen. Founder Eddie Wilson confirmed the news to the Chronicle on Sunday. By then, he'd already begun working with an agent to sell the property at 6416 N. Lamar.

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    The 71-year-old instigator who founded the capital’s most vaunted bygone venue, the Armadillo World Headquarters, Wilson revealed there had been interest in “replicating” his business, but he isn’t comfortable letting someone else take it over and chose instead to sell the property, a move that will ideally wipe out all his debt and allow himself and wife Sandra Wilson to retire.

    He holds out hope that the land could be acquired by a certain nonprofit that cares for Austin musicians.

    He also plans to auction off more of his rock & roll artifacts. That follows his 2015 sale at Burley Auction Group, which saw buyers falling over each other to get their hands on his concert posters, antique beer advertisements, paintings, and other heirlooms. Wilson characterizes the previous sale as, “The only thing I've ever done right on the first try.”

    There’s hardly an Austin restaurant with as much compounded history as Threadgill’s, which opened in December 1981. It exists both as a postscript to the Seventies musical hot spot Armadillo World Headquarters and as a continuation of Kenneth Threadgill’s historic filling station and beer joint. The latter stood in line to get the first beer license in the county in 1933 for the Gulf filling station on that North Lamar plot – then outside the city limits.

    For an ensuing five decades, the country singer and yodeler ran the tavern, which routinely hosted hootenannies and open mic nights. On Wednesday nights at Threadgill’s, a University of Texas student named Janis Joplin cut here teeth as a vocalist. She remained close friends with the venue’s proprietor for the rest of her life.

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    After Wilson left the ’Dillo and his antagonistic diner the Raw Deal, he purchased the original Threadgill’s site from its namesake, a property its owner now lovingly describes as having been “a leaky, falling down, piece of ****,” and reopened it as an eatery. The menu is directly inspired by the Southern home cooking of Wilson’s beloved mama, Beulah. Its theme hung onto the Austin of the Thirties through Sixties.

    A second iteration of the restaurant, Threadgill’s World Headquarters, opened Downtown on W. Riverside in 1996 and preserved the Armadillo through the concert hall’s posters, piano, and a museum-like wealth of leftovers from the long-razed building. While both restaurants routinely featured live music, the south location boasted a high-capacity beer garden allowing large outdoor concerts. It shuttered in late 2018 in the face of rising rent.

    Now, the COVID-19 shutdown rings a death knell for Old No. 1. The restaurant announced its temporary closure April 8. Consider it permanent.

    Wilson says the Austin Museum of Popular Culture, which relocated into Threadgill’s back building last year, will be able to remain on the property as long as possible. Preservationists of Austin's ruggedly eclectic heritage, two former Armadillo employees, Emma Little and Leea Mechling, head up the operation.

    For the time being, the ever quotable man behind the brand remains sheltered-in-place at his home a few blocks away.

    “I want to get me a shirt made that says ‘High risk,’” joked Wilson, who lost one lung to cancer years ago. “Sandra’s holding me in quarantine over here with a gun. She don’t want to lose me.”

    https://www.austinchronicle.com/dai...s-old-no-1-closes-permanently-after-87-years/
     
  2. Buck Turgidson

    Buck Turgidson Mineshaft Enthusiast

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    The original Magnolia Cafe location closed too.

    NXNW brewpub, not sure what else. Restaurants and bars are going to take a beating.
     
  3. Surfguy

    Surfguy Contributing Member

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    So long...Eddie Wilson.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

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    nice venue ... Maybe Tilman will buy it and turn it into a quaint Joe's Crab Shack.
     
  5. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

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    NXNW has been struggling for a while. They closed their south location months ago. This was just the straw that broke the camels back for the north location. Shame because I used to love going there when lived in that area.

    I thought Threadgills had already closed but I also thought the Riverside location was the original.
     
  6. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

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    Story made the national Morning Edition show

     
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  7. Dream Sequence

    Dream Sequence Contributing Member

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    if memory serves, NXNW was planning on redeveloping their north location for some time now..this just made the decision more immediate..
     
  8. Pole

    Pole Houston Rockets--Tilman Fertitta's latest mess.

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    hopefully Tilman won’t have two pennies to rub together when this is all over, but I know that isn’t how the world works.
     
  9. donkeypunch

    donkeypunch Contributing Member

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    The death march to a more corporately commercialized world after this is all said and done.
     
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  10. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    The Riverside location was an attempt at expanding the business by Eddie Wilson, and what amounted to a tribute to Armadillo World Headquarters, the world famous music venue where just about every great band, musician, and singer of the era of the '60's and '70's performed, many multiple times. The restaurant closed because the rent became too high. Eddie co-founded the AWHQ in 1970, and managed it through 1976. It's last night was New Year's Eve, 1980. It did indeed become " the center of the musical universe," a prediction Eddie Wilson made to the late Gov. Ann Richards in 1970. Check out the images below. For an real idea of who played there, go to the website, https://www.awhq.com/ , for a list of performers. A list too long to post here. Also more images and history. Kenneth Threadgill, by the way, performed there. Sadly, I missed the auction for the memorabilia after it closed. There was a large, original framed poster of the Texas International Pop Festival on the wall of the Men's Room, a festival on Labor Day weekend of 1969, that I attended and would have bid on.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    #10 Deckard, Apr 25, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2020
  11. HillBoy

    HillBoy Contributing Member
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    I cried out loud when my sister-in-law sent me this. Of all the oldtime Austin eateries, Threadgill's was hands down my absolute favorite and I made it a point to stop by whenever i was in town. I still use Kenneth's cookbook to this day. Man! All of the cool joints are gone - Ben's Longbranch BBQ, Hut's, Katz's Deli and now Threadgill's. :(
     
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  12. Buck Turgidson

    Buck Turgidson Mineshaft Enthusiast

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  13. Mr. Brightside

    Mr. Brightside Contributing Member

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    Businesses that rely on the lore of yesteryear get punished harshly by millenial/Gen Z patrons as they don't offer any innovation on the menu. From the few times I had been there the patrons were older and less likely to purchase the higher margin items like liquor/alcohol. I don't believe that COVID furlough was the only reason for this place to go bust. Unfortunately and as a fan of history, I would imagine this story will repeat at multiple places similar to this.
     
  14. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    There is room in a city of over a millIon, which is what Austin is now, for businesses to be successful “that rely on the lore of yesteryear,” what I view as an odd way of putting it, but whatever. Eddie Wilson, the owner, was in a poor financial position (in my opinion) due to a frozen food business several years back that didn’t work out, and losing his lease on the large restaurant between the of S. Congress and S. First close to downtown, a place that was doing very good lunch business, and a place he had a lot invested in. A huge lease increase made it financially unviable.

    I strongly disagree with your “punished harshly by millennial/Gen Z patrons” comment. Also, the “older crowd/alcohol” thing. I don’t know when or how often you went to Threadgill’s. Maybe you hit it on an off night. I live in SW Austin, but used to live south central for years, and in Austin since 1980. Started coming to Austin in the mid 1960’s, so I’m very familiar with what once was and what has been lost.

    It’s not because of one or more particular “generations.” It is usually due to property values driven through the roof by the hoard of people moving here every year, leading to large lease and rent increases impacting not on businesses, but where people can afford to live. I think Austin has lost far too many classic eateries, businesses, clubs, and bars the last several years, the sorts of things that attract people to Austin in the first place. Not because of the “rise” of generations “X,Y, and Z.” Not in my opinion.
     
  15. Astrodome

    Astrodome Member

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    I remember going to conans pizza in the 80s while visiting my grandmother in austin. That pizza spoiled me.
     
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  16. HTM

    HTM Member

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    How do you feel about how Austin is changing and the trend of that change moving into the future? Sad to see the city going in the direction it is?
     
  17. Joe Joe

    Joe Joe Go Stros!
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    This is a sad, sad thread.
     
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  18. Buck Turgidson

    Buck Turgidson Mineshaft Enthusiast

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    When you were poor college kids you ate at Double Daves. When you were flush, like if somebody's folks sent them some money, you ate Conan's. Good times.
     
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  19. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    Thanks for the question! To be honest, the changes have been stunning, with much of it unwelcome by very large numbers of “native” and longtime residents. For many, many years, Austin was essentially the state capital, with it’s tens of thousands of employees (including my significant other, starting around 1980), and UT. Both were the drivers of the city’s economy. Both fed numerous local businesses.

    The university was one half of Austin’s dual economic engine. UT has easily been the state’s largest university as long as I can remember. It’s had around 50,000 students for an incredibly long time and along the way, they have fueled much of the club and bar scene while attempting to earn their degrees. What always fascinated me was how empty Austin seemed during the summer, when most returned home until the Fall. There was a noticeable drop in traffic, and in customers for the bars, clubs, and restaurants. It was easy to get a table or a seat at the bar. ;-)

    As an aside, in the early ‘80’s “rush hour” was just that in Austin, an hour of traffic, unless there was an unusually bad accident on one of the freeways. In the summer of 1980, having moved to Austin from Houston, that astonished us, as did the city putting sidewalks in the south central neighborhoods that didn’t have them, neighborhoods around where we lived. Both were unheard of in the Houston we knew.

    Many of those students liked Austin, the Hill Country, and the lakes so much that they stayed in Austin, one way or another. They provided a lot of employees for our state government at lower salaries than they could have earned somewhere else in the private sector. Most of the professionals my S.O. hired as a state executive were UT grads. During the ‘80’s, however, a new technology driven job market slowly arrived, drawn by the low wages and the highly educated UT grads looking for a way to stay here.

    I could go on, but yeah, I miss the Austin of the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, ‘80’s, and even the ‘90’s, when I thought the city was growing and changing way too much. Little did I know that the city was just getting started. I wish Austin was like it used to be, but you can’t turn back the clock. As much as it’s changed, I still wouldn’t live in any other Texas city.
     
  20. Buck Turgidson

    Buck Turgidson Mineshaft Enthusiast

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    Sometimes I feel...

    Sometimes I feeeeeel....like I been tied to the Whipping Post.

    Good Lord I feel like I'm dying.

     

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