Posted in: Clifton, Crescent Hills, Louisville Neighborhoods, Louisville Real Estate, What to do in Louisville, Author: Younger Group (October 9, 2010)
Since 1985, Genny’s Diner on Frankfort Ave. in Clifton has paid to tribute to a Louisville invention – the cheeseburger. Diner owner Frank Faris magnified the fried meat and cheese delight into the Big Daddy platter featuring 10 ounces of meat with cheese on a bun served with steak fries. (Bigger sizes available!) If you started out with Frickled (i.e., fried) pickles and ended with peanut butter pie, you could experience the offerings noted by Southern Living Magazine and numerous local reviewers as some of the best down home eating in Louisville. The burgers, pickles, and pies are only a small fraction of the extensive menu of soups, sandwiches, entries, and desserts. Now, after a long and heated battle with the city and local residents,Genny’s is closing its doors to make way for a Comfy Cow ice cream store, as cow trumps cow in Clifton/Crescent Hill.
Genny’s began as an eight seat establishment but grew to over 175 seats. In 2001, Faris bought a 100 year old Queen Anne house next door to raze as a parking lot. Before he got around to doing it, Clifton was named a local preservation district in 2003 and Faris was unable to gain the permission of the Metro Landmark’s Commission to tear it down and carry out his plan. When he bought it, the house didn’t look too bad, but fixing up the house would have cost Faris about $300,000.
Over the years, Faris let the house fall into disrepair, perhaps in an effort to gain permission to demolish it. He amassed many code violations. In response to court orders, he tried to give the house away as well as sell it. None of the neighborhood advocates of the restoration stepped up to buy or take the property, until the Comfy Cow stepped in.
The Comfy Cow, which currently has a store in St. Matthew/Graymoor/Devondale, saw the Frankfurt Corridor as an ideal future location. According to co-owner Tom Koons-McGee, he and his partner Roy Koons-McGee had not envisioned a location on Frankfurt available so soon, but they were able to get the place for fair price from Faris, along with many perks thrown in by the city. They plan to renovate the diner as a retail location and refurbish the house for retail and office space. The project, estimated to cost several hundred thousand dollars, will be financed with a Small Business Administration Loan, a forgivable loan from the Metro Development Authority. They city will work with the courts to waive the $70,000 in maintenance fees. In addition, the Metro Development Authority will provide $150,000 for an environmental assessment of the property. (For the full story about the battle over the Frankfurt St. house and the purchase by the Comfy Cow, click to see this WHAS 11 News video.)
The ice cream store, opened in 2009, has quickly developed a reputation for its made-on-the premises creative flavors which change daily. Voted the Best Ice Cream Shop in LEO’s 2010 Readers’ Choice Awards, flavors are introduced on a trial basis and if the public likes them they remain part of the rotation. The ice cream, made on batches of only four gallons at a time, is also served at other Louisville locations, but the St. Matthews shop on Herr Avenue, with its clever logo, ice-cream-scoop-lights, and refurbished soda fountain, is a popular family destination. Expected to open on Valentine’s Day in 2011, the store is expected to be popular at its new location on Frankfort as well, both because of its delicious ice cream and because it stepped up to refurnish a neighborhood eyesore.
There is a certain irony in that one cow-related comfort food is taking over for another. But does this change-of-hands of the Frankfurt Ave. building mean the end of the Frank Faris and his Big Daddy burgers for Louisville, birthplace of the cheeseburger? Absolutely not. Though Genny’s will close on October 16, Faris is looking at potential sites for a 200-seat restaurant with plenty of parking, possibly along the Bardstown Road and Dixie Highway corridors and Southern Indiana. Cow may trump cow on Frankfort Ave. but the greater Louisville area will emerge a winner once be both endeavors are up and running.