Locals speak out on Norcross Station Cafe closing its doors after 20 years

NORCROSS — The Norcross Station Café will close its doors after 20 years of serving homestyle food in a friendly atmosphere.

Owner Ken Weatherford was outbid for his historic restaurant location in the Norcross Train Depot by about 150 percent recently, and the city is bound by law to accept the highest bid. Mojito’s, a Cuban food restaurant located across the street from Norcross Station Café, will move in to the location next year.

Several Norcross residents, as well as restaurant patrons from surrounding cities, addressed Mayor Bucky Johnson and City Council members Monday, expressing their dismay at the loss of a 20-year Norcross tradition.

Attorney Peter Crofton, along with his wife Michelle and daughter Katie, asked Johnson and council members to carefully consider all factors before accepting the higher bid on the city-owned property. Peter Crofton expressed his concern over bid document irregularities and suggested that, when there is a 150 percent difference in bids from potential lessors, there are likely other factors at play, such as a lack of knowledge on one bidder’s part that another bidder may have had.

Michelle Crofton asked the governing body to reconsider granting the lease to another party besides Ken Weatherford, in spite of rumored “personal agendas” that some council member may have with respect to Weatherford.

“Ken has done so much for my family and others in this city,” Michelle Crofton said.

Thirteen-year-old Katie said that the Norcross Station Café is an important part of her life and her family’s life, and that not seeing the familiar owners and servers, with the famous food, trains and Christmas traditions that have come to characterize the eatery would be a shame.

Other Norcross residents echoed the Croftons’ sentiments, and Estelle Watson, a Duluth resident, even attended Monday’s council meeting to ask the mayor and council to reconsider.

Former Norcross mayor and Gwinnett County Chairwoman Lillian Webb even made an appearance Monday to briefly reminisce about the history of the train depot and the successful business the Weatherford family built there.

As stewards of the taxpayers’ money, Johnson and council members must award the contract to the highest bidder. Weatherford bid $3000 a month for the renewed lease, and Mojito’s bid $7553 a month for the lease agreement.

2014 budget approved

Following a required public hearing on the matter, Norcross leaders voted to approve a $9.2 million budget for fiscal year 2014.

“Norcross is a city with no dent,” remarked Johnson, and city manager Rudolph Smith added that it’s been four years since a tax increase has been imposed on property owners.

Demolition of historic house approved

Council members approved the demolition of the historic house located at 167 Buchanan St. While property owner Jane Simpson Holbrook sought other solutions for the house, the cost to bring it up to code was prohibitive and exceeds the value of the structure. Demolition will begin immediately.

Rezoning request tabled

A rezoning request for the Buchanan Station development has been tabled for several reasons. Applicant Tom McClure, who had requested a change in zoning from R-65 to RM-10, said Monday that he isn’t sure the RM-10 zoning best suits the proposed changes. Nearby homeowners said that they are concerned about this request for change in zoning, since they bought into a development that they believed would be R-65.

The request was tabled so that McClure would have time to consult with neighbors and city staff and gather more information, perhaps arriving at a new plan or a better zoning designation for the property.