Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
JACKSONVILLE — A popular Jacksonville eatery has closed its doors, and another's future is uncertain.
For the past month, a “For Rent” sign has been posted on the Dog & Spud stand at 804 E Rusk St.
According to co-owner Virginia Moore – who launched the venture in January 2012 with close friends and neighbors, David and Kay Ford – health issues forced the trio to close the shop.
“We're closed for good,” Moore said, describing how an illness this past December forced her into a hospital, then a nursing home, to recuperate. “I got sick and couldn't stand up to work, and I never really could get back to (the busy pace at Dog & Spud).”
Prior to opening their stand in Jacksonville, the trio operated a traveling concession stand for more than two decades.
Tiring of that, they realized “there weren't any hot dog stands in our area, (so) we decided to do them here,” Ford said in an interview this past year.
He estimated that about 40 percent of their sales were from hot dogs, prepared a variety of different ways, to a point where owners changed the menu five different times the year they were open.
Customers not only loved the food, but its owners.
In fact, Moore was voted “Best Waitress” by Jacksonville Daily Progress in its 2013 “Readers' Choice” edition.
“That just thrilled me to death – I felt like I won an Academy Award,” she said, describing how people would drive up to the window and begin sharing about their day with her. “They became like friends, and I feel a great reward from being able to work there.”
When customers learn of the eatery's closing, “they'll tell us, 'Oh, no! You didn't tell us you were leaving!'” she said. “Everybody in Jacksonville is so nice to us, they're really good people.
“I will miss them, but my health is just not up to it anymore,” Moore said.
Across town, a sign has been posted at Fratela's Italian Restaurant, located at 1800 S. Jackson, saying, “Sorry for inconvenience, but we will be open soon. Thank you very much.”
A call to the restaurant reveals a telephone company recording that “this number has been disconnected or is no longer in service.”
Amber Mayfield, information coordinator for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, said Fratela's has been a member of the Chamber since opening a couple of years ago, but officials have not heard from anyone in awhile.
“We don't know (what's going on), and we're kinda wondering the same thing ourselves,” she said. “It's been about six weeks (since anyone has heard from them) – it's not looking too promising.”
According to Mayfield, Jovani Neva and his brother are listed as owners of the restaurant.