A host of iconic businesses and restaurants in the Fredericksburg region are either closing or up for sale, and it’s giving some of us culture shock.
In recent weeks, we’ve found out that Jan Williams Florist has closed and Roxbury Farm & Garden Center will shut down in a matter of months.
And this week we learned that one of the oldest businesses in the region—Lowery’s Seafood Restaurant in Tappahannock—is up for sale.
In business, especially family businesses, change is a constant that can’t be put off forever.
William “Duby” Lowery IV confirmed Tuesday that he and his father, William Lowery III, and his uncle, Robert Lowery, have put the restaurant their family has operated for 80 years on the market, for $1.62 million.
Those worried about losing the chance to taste Lowery’s oysters, crabs, fish and other signature dishes can take solace from the fact that the restaurant’s recipes, business procedures and other “intellectual property” will transfer in the sale.
Duby Lowery noted that there’s quite a bit of real estate included with the business. There’s the restaurant, which includes a bar area called Captain’s Grill & Patio, and there are two large parking lots on the site. The restaurant sits on a busy stretch of highway near where U.S. 17 and State Route 360 intersect.
“But I want people to understand one thing,” said Lowery. “We’re still open. We’re not going to close just because it’s up for sale. We’re still here and we’re serving our customers every day.”
He said that the restaurant is for sale because his father and uncle are ready to retire, and that the six-day-a-week business is too much for one person to handle.
“There always comes a time for a change,” said Lowery. “We’ve only been closing for one day a week now for two years, operating for the first 78 years as a seven-day-a-week operation, open every day but Christmas. It’s been a way of life.”
Lowery said his grandparents—William Wesley Lowery Jr. and his wife, Lorelle, started the restaurant in 1938 on Prince Street in Tappahannock as a sandwich shop “where everybody in town would come over and get their lunch.” It moved to the current site in the ’40s as the business took off and more space was needed.
For a long time, it’s been a popular spot with locals, as well as visitors who stop in for seafood or fried chicken dinners.
I remember a time when Duby’s grandfather, William Lowery, competed head to head with his own brother, Rudy Lowery, with different brands of chicken. Both restaurants bore the Lowery name. The Warsaw brother had a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise while the Tappahannock brother had a Chicken in the Rough franchise, and competition was strong.
“We were also doing seafood early on here, and most recently doing oysters from the bar,” Duby Lowery said, “But local crabs and oysters have been our mainstays for years.”
Those who’ve visited the restaurant in Tappahannock over the years may recall a time when it included an antique car museum, as well as boat models and other pieces customers brought in. There was also a period when the restaurant featured talking birds in cages. And many who went there as youngsters will recall when children who’d eaten all their vegetables could use plastic fishing rods to haul in toy fish and earn prizes for their efforts.
Duby Lowery, who has worked in the business all his life, said it will be hard walking away from it, but that the time seems right to turn it over to someone else.
He said that they started putting out word of the sale about a year ago, but listing it with Maxwell & Associates in Richmond has shifted it to another gear.
And if it doesn’t sell?
“Well, then we might still be here,” said Lowery. “We’ll just have to see.”