TEXARKANA, Ark. — The owner of the refurbished railcar on Front Street named The Flying Crow aims to have a new restaurateur running an eatery there before Mardi Gras.
Railcar owner David Peavy said Graham Slam Bakery owner Emily Graham opted to focus on her bakery business rather than the additional breakfast and lunch cafe she operated in the railcar for about six months from July to mid-December.
Peavy said he's purchased restaurant equipment and intellectual rights to The Flying Crow so there's a seamless transition, and he's been interviewing potential new tenants with more to meet in the coming days.
"I've been meeting with different people that would want to run it over there," said Peavy, who also owns the nearby 1894 City Market.
He hoped this transition would happen in December, but he wants to ensure it's successful.
"We're hoping that we can get it back operational really soon," Peavy said. "We're not going to rush it just to say we did it."
A mid-December post on The Flying Crow's Facebook page put the transition this way: "The Flying Crow is temporarily closed while we upgrade the kitchen, and make changes to improve your dining experience."
Peavy said he intends to make those kitchen changes according to the needs of the new tenant.
The Flying Crow opened under Graham's stewardship with menu items like French toast, chicken salad sandwiches, monte cristos, barbecue chicken wraps, Mississippi dips, bagels, beef stew, pecan pie and more.
Peavy said Graham worked hard on the restaurant and did really good things while running The Flying Crow restaurant.
"While we were looking at revamping the kitchen and adding some additional space back there, they kind of reevaluated where they were," Peavy said. He described the bakery as Graham's true love and keeping up with both businesses became a challenge.
"That's her passion," he said about Graham's bakery. She said she appreciated the community support for The Flying Crow.
"I was very happy to be able to have such a unique experience in Texarkana's only train car cafe," Graham said. "I would have never even dreamed of opening a restaurant if it wasn't for David Peavy encouraging me along the way. I have learned so many things along the way in the short time I was there and am grateful to all of the community who showed up and supported it."
With its tasty menu, relaxed ambiance and the retro nostalgia factor of dining in a converted railcar, The Flying Crow was a hit. Vintage advertisements and other reminders of Texarkana's railroad history adorn the interior.
The space provides diners with a front-row seat of the railroad lines running downtown, not far from the Amtrak station and the old Union Station building. While eating in a railcar, one can hear the trains chugging past the cafe.
"What's really cool is watching the little kids come in and just seeing trains come by and their eyes light up, and everybody getting their picture made out there going to lunch," Peavy said.
At one time, the railcar was a Santa Fe Railroad lounge car built by Pullman-Standard circa 1940, and it's said to have transported movie stars across the country between Los Angeles and Chicago. This first-class ride was called the Super Chief.
Peavy revamped the Crow's interior himself as a labor of love before a restaurant opened there. He anticipates some reworking of the space: more elegance to the front bar area, for example.
"Just moving some things around here and there, so they can keep that mystique," he said.
He'll also add TV screens to both give a more up-close webcam view of the trains going by and provide a screen similar to what air traffic controllers see, except this is for railcars heading in and out of the downtown railyard — "switching stations and things like that."
"You'll see them coming miles away," Peavy said of these signals. Another TV screen will display 1940s Texarkana Gazette newspaper images.
"I expect it to be open by Mardi Gras for sure, at least in some capacity," Peavy said.