ASHEBORO — Bia's Gourmet Hardware, a popular upscale Asheboro restaurant, closed on Saturday.
Bia Rich, who opened the restaurant in November 2013 with her husband, Eric, reflected on the bittersweet moments during an interview Friday at the 103 Worth St. eatery.
"It's been great since day one," she said. "It's what I love to do. We've had a lot of support, from a lot of peers. Everything comes to an end eventually, and I am very thankful for the town of Asheboro and everybody that supported us. I loved every moment of it, but it's time for the next chapter."
What that next chapter may be she declined to share, but for now she doesn't plan to open another restaurant.
"It's been a good run here in Asheboro," Eric Rich added. "I would like to express a gratitude to everyone in town that has afforded this and made this all possible for the last five-plus years. It's been one roller-coaster adventure, but it's been worth it for us. I hope we delivered on what we set out to do."
The Riches did not say who bought the business -- the name and kitchen equipment were not part of the sale, an option that had been available. The Realtors involved in the transaction also said they could not share information about who bought the property or what the plans are for its use until the closing, which is set for Feb. 19.
Many customers expressed sadness that the restaurant, a favorite for Bia's gourmet cooking, was closing.
The Riches had transformed the former McCrary Hardware building into a showpiece. They re-purposed all of the wood in the building, with much of the renovation done by the couple, along with Eric's father, Larry.
"When we did the walk-through, it was dark with purple and black paint everywhere," Eric said at the time, describing the decor of the former occupant, a nightclub called Enigma. "We reused old ceiling boards removed from the mezzanine level to wrap the stairs and bar, opened it up by putting in more windows, and removing layers of plaster and black paint off the walls and floors to expose the brick and original maple hardwood floors.
"From the trim work to the color scheme, we tried to stay to the period of the original building."
A former Marine, Keena Heaton, designed custom tables for the dining area, complete with a "B" monogram on each table. Glass panels separating the bar area, with its vintage-style Edison lighting, from the dining room were decorated with vintage advertisements hand-painted from a postcard of the original store windows.
An old bank vault, left behind from the days when the building was home to the Bank of Randolph, was transformed into a temperature-controlled wine vault housing mostly French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wines.
"We found coin bags in the walls and floors with the Bank of Randolph printed on them!" Bia said in the 2013 article.
Bia, who was born and raised in Brazil, brought an "eclectic fusion"-type of menu to her new restaurant, with offerings as diverse as Wild Boar to Spinach with Crispy Pancetta and oven-roasted eggplant.
A perennial winner in The Courier-Tribune's "Best of" competition, often winning for Best Chef, Bia was also known for her food presentation.
On Friday, she reflected on some of her favorite dishes.
"I especially like to work with different Latin stuff, vegetables, a lot of different seafoods and meats," Rich said.
Those are the sweet memories.
She did not want to elaborate on the bitter ones, a spate of vandalisms that plagued the restaurant. Since 2016, it has been targeted nine times. In most cases, it was a single vandal, caught on the building's security cameras, wielding a variety of objects: Rocks, bricks, sockets, billiard balls and hand tools of some kind, like a hammer, a hatchet, or a tire iron. On June 2, two vandals shattered glass with pellets that officers say could have been fired from a BB gun or slingshot from across Fayetteville Street.
The most recent incidents occurred on July 9 by a single vandal throwing brake parts, and lastly on Aug. 1 by someone throwing rocks at the boarded-up windows.
A 38-year-old Asheboro man was arrested in the final incident. Kendrick Loncondo Gibson, 1006 Uwharrie St., Asheboro, was charged with six counts of injury to real property, for damaging five windows and a door, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. He had not been charged in any of the other vandalisms.
Over the two years of vandalisms, Rich said in an article published in August in The Courier-Tribune, she spent nearly $100,000 in repairing the various damages caused by the hits.
On Friday, she did not want to talk about that or what role the vandalisms may have played in shuttering the doors, instead choosing to accentuate the many positive experiences and friends she's made in Asheboro.
(c)2019 The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.