Kingsport Ryan's closes its doors

Rick Wagner • Feb 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Buffets Inc. has closed the Kingsport Ryan's as part of a restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. David Grace photo.


KINGSPORT — Ryan’s Grill, Buffet and Bakery has closed in the Model City after what an employee said was two decades in business.

However, the Bristol, Va., Johnson City and Greeneville locations remain open.

The closure of the eatery — part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization — leaves about 50 people without jobs, according to a former employee there.

“They gave us no warning,” said Stephanie Leake, who said she was a waitress, cashier and salad bar operator at the Kingsport Ryan’s at 2404 Memorial Blvd., across from the Fort Henry Mall.

“The store closings are part of the reorganizational process,” said Diana Postemsky, spokeswoman for Buffets Inc., parent company of Ryan’s.

She said about two dozen low-performing Buffets Inc. restaurants in the nation were closed, including Ryan’s Tennessee locations in Knoxville, Dyersburg and McMinnville and a Virginia one in Staunton. In addition, an Old Country Buffet closed in Manassas, Va. She said the company would continue to evaluate performance at remaining locations because of the bankruptcy, filed Jan. 22.

Leake said employees were told at a Tuesday meeting that the company that owns Ryan’s was going bankrupt and that the Kingsport location was the lowest performing in the region. Aside form the Bristol and Johnson City locations, Ryan’s also has restaurants in Greeneville and Christiansburg, Va.

Leake said all employees received their final paycheck.

A manager at the Bristol restaurant said gift certificates were good at all Ryan’s and other restaurants owned by Buffets Inc., which include the chains of Ryan’s, Fire Mountain Grills, Old Country Buffet and Hometown Buffet, all owned by Egan, Minn.-based Buffets Inc., which also owns Tahoe Joe’s Family Steakhouse.

Mike Diamond, area director for Ryan’s, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Calls to Buffets Inc.’s Minnesota headquarters were returned by Buffets Inc. spokeswoman Postemsky and spokesman Michael Freitag.

Postemsky said her understanding was that most employees at closed locations were offered either severance pay or a job at another location. Freitag said positions at other locations were offered only as available, and a laid-off employee who declined to be identified Thursday said she was hesitant to take a position at other Ryan’s locations because she feared they might close, too.

That employee said employees with longer terms of service were given severance pay.

“We went in Tuesday morning. They called us in and said they were having an employee meeting,” Leake said Thursday.

“We’ve got employees who’ve been there for 20 years,” Leake said. “They didn’t offer us jobs anywhere.”

Leake said at least one co-worker had been there since the restaurant opened 20 years ago.

“She’s 67 years old. Where’s she going to go?” Leake asked.

Freitag said the fate of the building has not yet been determined.

Ryan’s, formerly based in South Carolina, employs 20,000 nationwide. Ryan’s founder Alvin A. McCall opened the first Ryan’s restaurant in 1977. Ryan’s became part of Buffets Inc. on Nov. 1, 2006.

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