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State closes Thelma’s for nonpayment of taxes; veterans coffeehouse moving to K&W

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The N.C. Department of Revenue closed Thelma’s restaurant Thursday for nonpayment of taxes.

No-trespassing signs were posted on the doors of the restaurant, located at West End Plaza (the former Salisbury Mall). The Department of Revenue sign said, “The personal property here within has been seized for nonpayment of taxes.”

Thelma Luckey owned the restaurant, which featured “down home country cooking.”

She opened at West End Plaza in December 2013. For the past five years, Thelma’s has been the host for the Tuesday morning coffeehouse, a gathering place for local military veterans.

Luckey is an Army Reserve veteran herself.

An average of 85 to 90 veterans attend the Tuesday morning coffees. More than 1,000 veterans have come through the doors over the past five years.

Members of the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution serve as waitresses, distributing coffee and pastries.

Tom Harrell, a founder of the coffeehouse and one of its chief organizers, spent much of the day Friday making sure veterans have a place to go this coming Tuesday morning, and he met with considerable success.

“I can’t believe how many things have gone right today,” he said Friday evening.

Rowan County Commissioner Mike Caskey is a liaison to the coffeehouse group. Caskey, County Manager Aaron Church and Harrell met Friday morning, and Church’s friendship with the grandson of one of the founders of K&W Cafeteria paid dividends.

The men later met at the K&W Cafeteria in Salisbury, a standalone building on the fringe of the West End Plaza site. K&W agreed to offer its space for the veterans coffeehouse from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and also provide pastries.

Meanwhile, Harrell spoke with Brent Lyerly of Lyerly Funeral Home, and Lyerly said no matter where the coffeehouse moves he will still pay for the coffee. Harrell says he bets Lyerly has spent at least $6,000 through the years providing coffee.

Before K&W stepped in, the coffeehouse had been receiving pastries from Walmart at a deep discount because they were for the veterans.

“So we literally move intact,” Harrell said. “You cannot imagine the charge you get out of people willing to step up.”

Harrell stressed that Luckey immediately told him to find her a coffee pot and a place for the veterans to meet and she would continue to help. She contacted Livingstone College about a possible venue, Harrell said.

“The thing is literally moving intact, and Thelma says, ‘I will be there.'” Harrell said. “That, of course, is what we want her to do.”

Harrell credited Luckey with paying for things out of her own pocket many times for the veterans.

“Thelma is not defeated,” he added.

Another veteran, Dean Moore, heard about Thelma’s closing Thursday and by the end of the day had secured the VFW post on Brenner Avenue as a meeting place, in case the coffeehouse needed it.

Harrell is excited about the space K&W offers and the opportunity to build things.

“Who knows where it can go?” Harrell said. “I’m just as happy as a frog on a lily pad.”

Luckey also has operated restaurants in downtown Salisbury and Mooresville, but they did not stay open.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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