J. H. Osborne • Jul 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT - A Model City landmark is on the market.

Asking price: $890,000.

The Konnarock Road facility that housed Skoby's Restaurant, a regional benchmark for fine dining and hospitality for more than half a century under control of the Barger family, is up for sale.

Fred "Pal" Barger Jr. donated the restaurant and its contents to Virginia Intermont College (VIC) nearly three years ago for use by the private college's then-fledgling culinary program.

A VIC spokesman confirmed earlier this week that the school, struggling financially in recent months, has listed the former Skoby's building for sale.

"We don't have any use for it any more," said Lisa Mitchell.

Earlier this year VIC announced the demise of the school's culinary program, which had for a year or so been headquartered at Skoby's - officially referred to as VIC's Barger Culinary Campus.

When Barger donated the Skoby's building and its contents to VIC in August 2004, he retained ownership of the land it sits on.

The property is being shown by TCI Group.

According to an online listing, the 2.83 acre plot is not for sale - only the restaurant "conveys."

A brief rundown of the restaurant's life in the last three years:

•In early August 2004, Barger - founder of the Kingsport-based Pal's Sudden Service restaurant chain - announced he was donating the 25,000-square-foot Skoby's Restaurant, founded by his parents, to VIC.

The college had launched its culinary program two years earlier and Barger said he was impressed by its success. The program offered bachelor of arts degrees with concentrations in culinary arts, pastry arts and restaurant management. In addition to classroom instruction, students had the opportunity for hands-on experience at the program's operation of the Red Blanket Bakery and Cafe in Bristol, restaurant and catering services at the Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon, and a then-new culinary arts teaching kitchen built by Food City in Abingdon.

"Skoby's has been one of the top dining spots in our region for generations. It is only fitting that this legendary establishment now be dedicated to the next generation of great chefs and restaurateurs," Barger said at the time.

•For three weeks Skoby's was crowded each night with diners wanting one last meal in one of the restaurant's themed dining rooms - or one last visit to the 21-foot salad bar. On a Saturday night in late August 2004, the Barger family's operation of Skoby's ceased.

•Less than two months later, VIC re-opened what had been "Skoby's Pantry" as a second Red Blanket Bakery.

•In January 2005, VIC officials hosted an open house at the newly named Barger Culinary Campus, to familiarize the community with the school and its planned uses for the restaurant.

•A month later VI was looking for employees to reopen the main portion of the restaurant for full-service, evening dining. Training sessions and menu samplings were under way by April that year for what would be known as "VIC's Skoby's Restaurant."

•Following a "soft opening" that spring, the restaurant was in full swing by late summer.

•In October 2005, VI chefs offered the first of what was to become a popular series of public cooking classes.

•The Red Blanket in Bristol closed.

•VIC's Skoby's Restaurant ceased to operate in late 2006, but some pre-booked holiday parties were served.

•With the exception of some catered functions, VIC's Red Blanket at Skoby's closed to customers in late April. The culinary program's spring schedule of classes drew to a close shortly after.

•In the weeks since, VIC employees have transferred supplies and equipment from the former restaurant to the school's main campus in Bristol, Va., for use there.

Skoby's is located at 999 Konnarock Road, just off Lincoln Street near its juncture with John B. Dennis Bypass.

According to information provided with the property's listing on the TCI Group's Web site, within a five-mile radius: there's a total population of 67,602 (77,800 daytime, including 39,594 daytime working) in 30,413 households; the median household income is $34,682; average household income is $56,997; per capita income is $25,642; 3,740 households have total income less than $10,000; and 544 households have total income over $200,000.






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