Updated Sun, Aug 3, 2014 5:11 pm
Charlie Smith says he hasn’t traveled the stretch of Route 33 in his hometown of Nelsonville where the restaurant he owned with his sister Tammy Williams once sat since the eatery burned to the ground in April 2011.
“It was painful to see that lot,” he said, adding that he would go out of his way to find alternative routes around the spot that he had loved so much. “I just couldn’t stand seeing it.”
Roy and Joan Smith opened The Coffee Cup in downtown Nelsonville in 1971. In 1992, two of the couple’s children — Charlie and Tammy — moved the restaurant to Route 33. The sign and a vacant lot are all that remain today.
After hearing that it would cost around $1 million to rebuild The Coffee Cup — three times what he said his family put into the restaurant — Smith said he never thought he’d be involved in the restaurant business ever again.
“I just never thought I’d do it,” he said. “Just hearing a million dollars threw me for a loop. I would have loved to have rebuilt in Athens County or the Hocking Hills, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
However, a recent opportunity in a new town will bring some familiarities of The Coffee Cup back to southeast Ohio under a new name — Food for Thought.
Since the fire, Smith relocated to Parkersburg, West Virginia, and began working at JC Penney’s. It was there that he mentioned to customer Vikki Higgins that he used to own a restaurant. Higgins, who owns the Belpre Plaza Shopping Center, told Smith that she was looking for someone to run a restaurant in the former Belrock Diner location, which shut its doors in May.
After giving it some thought, Smith decided to go along with Higgins’ suggestion.
“Being at the right place at the right time is how it all came to be,” he said.
Food for Thought will open on Washington Boulevard in Belpre this month under the ownership of Tom Hoffman. Smith will operate the restaurant, which shares the name of his former catering business in Nelsonville, with the help of his sister who resides in Tuppers Plains.
According to Smith, Food for Thought will incorporate some of the menu items from The Coffee Cup, but will also have some new features. He said the restaurant’s food will be heavily influenced by southern and southwest cooking.
“But we’ll also have baked steak,” he said. “We’ll also be offering a pretty extensive vegetarian menu.”
Smith said he’s always had trouble describing The Coffee Cup’s menu, but said Midwest Living Magazine once accurately penned it as “urban home cooking.”
Food for Thought will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Smith said the iconic Belpre restaurant didn’t require much construction work, just some cleaning and redecorating.
Smith said there will be a sign installed on Washington Boulevard that features a giant head that reads “Food for Thought.”
While he’s excited about the new opportunity, Smith noted that he still misses his hometown of Nelsonville.