Huddle House closes; bankruptcy filed

Published 1:02 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

By Sean CW Korsgaard

Special to The Farmville Herald

Fast food in Farmville has undergone some sudden and drastic changes in recent months.

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Longtime patrons of the Farmville Huddle House may have noticed the restaurant shuttered its doors earlier this summer. What Farmville residents may not know is that the restaurant is one of several at the center of an ongoing bankruptcy proceeding for the former franchisee who operated it and several others throughout Central Virginia.

Joseph Cornelius is the manager of H2O Hospitality, LLC, the Lynchburg-based corporation that owned the Farmville Huddle House

on South Main Street, as well as other Huddle House restaurants in Appomattox, Bedford, Blackstone, Hopewell and South Boston. All have since been closed, no longer appearing on Huddle House’s website.

Cornelius filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Aug. 20. According to court records in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, H2O Hospitality, LLC has 50 to 99 creditors and estimated assets are less than $50,000 while estimated liabilities are between $500,001 and $1 million according to court records. The corporation owed more than $155,841 in taxes to various localities as well as more than $19,155 in services and utilities, according to the filings.

The debt includes over $83,515 in back taxes owed to the Commonwealth of Virginia and $10,340 in back taxes owed to the Town of Farmville, according to bankruptcy filings.

The sudden closures caught many employees as off guard as it did customers, with many reporting to work one morning and finding the doors locked and themselves out of a job.

Cornelius, nor anyone at Huddle House’s headquarters in Decatur, Ga. could be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the Farmville Pizza Hut has moved from its longtime standalone location on Third Street to a strip mall at Griffin Blvd. and S. Main St. and has a new look and new business approach to go with the new location.

While in part shaped by the ongoing overhaul of the Pizza Hut brand nationally, which has including everything from a new logo and expanding the menu to swapping out the iconic red thatched roofs for more modern designs, District Manager Stephen Bethea says there were many local market changes that affected the local changes for Pizza Hut in Farmville.

“We’ve always done a lot of our business traditionally with deliveries to students at Longwood University,” said Bethea. “One of the things taken into account with the new location is that we’re much closer to Longwood and much more geared toward carryout and delivery.”

The new location reflects this in the design with a much smaller and much brighter dine in area, and service is much more heavily aimed toward both delivery and carryout.

Bethea said that the equipment has been updated and upgraded at the new location and that all the employees from the former location remain employed at the new one.

“We just hope that the town of Farmville enjoys the new and updated facility,” said Bethea. “I think the new location offers a better dine in experience, allows for faster carryout and delivery and for Pizza Hut to better serve Farmville.”

As for the old Third Street location, inquiries can be directed to local attorney Harlan Horton, according to a sign on the door of the building.