FORT MILL TOWNSHIP -- Popular seafood restaurant Fishbone Grille has closed its doors after six years in business after the owner decided he couldn't weather the poor economic climate.
Owner Nick Economos, a Fort Mill resident, said that the economy, high fuel prices and the recent gas shortage created "the perfect storm" that led to his decision. During the early summer, he said, business dropped off by about 15 percent. It just got worse form there.
Economos said he made cutbacks and tried other adjustments to cope with the drop in sales. But by the end of summer business continued to slow down and when high gas prices and the fuel shortage hit the area a month ago, sales dropped by 40 percent in one week, he said.
"People just quit coming," Economos said. "I don't know why. People just got scared with their 401(k), and during that time it was just bad news, bad news, bad news. Stock market dropped like a rock and here we couldn't get gas. That was everyone's first priority. It added to the anxiety."
The decision to close the doors was made quickly, he said, but not lightly. It was difficult to shut the restaurant down, Economos said, because he knows there was nothing wrong with either the food or the service.
Economos said he isn't sure what he'll do with the property - the restaurant is on Gold Hill Road at the corner of Hwy. 160 West - but said he will not reopen Fishbone Grille in the future. He is considering the idea of putting another restaurant on the property, or selling it altogether.
For now, he said, he's "waiting for the dust to settle." In the meantime, he said, he's fielding calls from dozens of area residents who want to know why the doors to Fishbone Grille are closed.
"It's just like in '92. It's the economy, stupid," Economos said. "People were shocked that we were closing, but not as shocked as we were to see business deteriorate so fast."
Customers haven't seen the last of Economos, he said.
Economos and his wife also own Captain's Galley Seafood in Rock Hill. Any customers with valid gift certificates to Fishbone Grille can bring them to Captain's Galley to have them honored or redeemed, he said. Economos said he also plans to bring in some of his favorite foods from Fishbone Grille as specials on the Captain's Galley menu.