By Lyra Bordelon
A former West Virginia business owner is bringing country cooking to the Greenbrier Valley Airport. With a lease approved by the Airport Authority on Tuesday, October 13, Shonet Holley is taking the reigns of the airport’s prime restaurant space.
“I’ve got 45 years of experience so at this point I hope I know what I’m doing,” Holley said with a laugh.
Mom and pop, country cooking is on the menu, with fried chicken, hamburgers, and other classics available for indoor, outdoor in the patio area, and take-out dining. Currently the plans include a breakfast of the day. One expected highlight of the menu will be Holley’s home-baked pies, made from scratch.
“She’s gonna have specials, she’s making her own pies, that in of itself is a miracle,” Phillips said.
Holley was previously the owner of Shonets Country Cafe in Milton. Months ago, she sold the business and began looking forward to retirement. With a laugh she noted the feeling didn’t last long and she began looking to get back into the business.
“We’re excited to have her,” Belcher said. “We’re excited to have the restaurant back open because it’s a good service for the airport to have for the customers and the community. It’s a restaurant we want the community to come to, not just the airport. … It’s a great space – it’s an obvious place for a restaurant. It’s got mostly new furniture and equipment, you can eat and watch airplanes land and take off and see the aviation activity.”
The space was previously occupied by Landings, an airport owned restaurant, which was shut down to indoor seating in March and completely shut down in April due to COVID-19. Phillips noted that shortly before Landing’s closure, it was serving about one customer a day. Before this, another business was set up in the space, a more typical set up for an airport.
“In the airport world, airports normally do not try to run their own restaurant,” Belcher explained. “It’s very rare that happens. It’s much better to have a third party run it. We own and lease the space – it’s the same thing we do with rental car companies, airlines. Airports are really naturally set up to be a landlord rather than operate a business in their commercial terminal.”
During the Tuesday meeting, the Airport Authority voted to approve Holley’s lease. Voting virtually, Phillips received ample yea’s to the motion and one barking dog speaking out in opposition.
“Oh there’s a no,” Phillips said with a laugh, then confirmed the five votes in the affirmative, with multiple board members happy to see the space filled.
A name has not yet been confirmed but The Aviator Restaurant was one of the possibilities floated in the Airport Authority meeting. A soft open and an eventual ribbon cutting are expected in the future, though the timeline is not set. Until then, the community, and airport-goers, are looking forward to the new experience.
“You know, at an airport, usually the employees use the restaurant as much as anybody,” Belcher said. “I know all the employees are looking forward to it also. … I’m really looking forward to trying it myself.”
The restaurant, Holley explained, plans to be open preliminary around November 1, although this is not yet certain.