Sinclair’s: The End of an Era

By on 10 April, 2017 in Food, Sandra Nickel with 1 Comment

Almost exactly 25 years ago, I was at the Cloverdale Shoe Shop getting my usual repair work done (real estate is hard on shoes). The owner at the time, Carroll Thompson, mentioned to me that the art gallery at 1044 E. Fairview (the business of west of his) was closing soon and the property would be available. Carroll was one of the few people I’d told of my plans to leave my former broker and strike out on my own.

A quick call to the then-owner of the shops along the south side of “the strip” confirmed that the space would be available, and we negotiated a lease arrangement that even allowed our contractor to convert the retail space to offices with no rent due until we moved in. Almost every day for three full months, my husband Jim and I ate lunch, brunch or dinner at Sinclair’s and visited our job site across the street.

Lunch at Sinclair’s became a deeply ingrained tradition with Jim. He was there four or five days per week, week in and week out. In addition, he and his friends enjoyed adult beverages there many evenings and weekends. For our first few years, black leather and chrome chairs on loan from the eatery graced our lobby. We were so close to the owners and staff that we were even invited to the company Christmas party every year!

Things began to change for Sinclair’s when Montgomery enacted its smoking ordinance in December of 2002. If they were to be able to continue to serve their family customers, the restaurant had to eliminate smoking at the bar. Owners Bill and DJ Flippo came down on the family side of the argument, and their large, lucrative bar crowd largely moved on to smoking-friendly venues.

Then came the nightmare “Great Recession” that began in 2007 and arguably lingered throughout 2015. Sinclair’s survived — no mean feat for a small business (how well I know that!). But times were increasingly tough and manager salaries no longer in the budget. So one or the other of the owners found themselves on duty seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Rumors of Sinclair’s closing began to circulate before Christmas last year. But I did not learn that the restaurant was to be sold until early March. “We’re tired,” DJ said. “Really tired. And someone has approached us about buying us out. It may happen.”

Happen it did. The “closed” sign appeared on the door somewhat unexpectedly one recent Thursday afternoon. As I look across the street today, the space is dark. Parking spaces are empty. My heart aches.

A couple of people who loved Sinclair’s as well as we did have articulated better than I could:

“Like so many folks in Montgomery, I mourn the loss of a friend with the closing of Sinclair’s in Cloverdale. We have all depended on it for a place to meet friends, share stories, toast those who have died and have a beer after a long day. I guess I’m a sentimentalist, but when institutions fade away, I’m very sad. The memories of Sinclair’s are etched in the bowels of my brain. I appreciate Bill and DJ Flippo for providing us with affordable, good food served by some great people over the years. You deserve to walk away with your heads up for being a piece of Montgomery’s rich culinary history. Thanks for the memories.”  Jack Campbell

“Congratulations Bill and DJ on your successful run in a very tough business. Thank you for taking us all on your dream (and sometimes nightmare) journey. You have touched so many of us with wonderful food, fellowship and fabulous memories. Sinclair’s was truly a gift to Old Cloverdale. We will miss cocktails on your patio, she-crab soup, gumbo ya-ya, the best wings in town, Flippo’s jokes, trivia challenges, New Years Eve, Matt’s smile, all the great servers, and the ‘Cheers’-like atmosphere.Thanks for all the good times with friends old and new. We wish you success in whatever life bring you next. Peace and love…”  Jack Durham

Blessings, my friends. Enjoy sleeping late and having weekends to enjoy. We will miss you!!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 30 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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  1. Penny Weaver says:

    Thanks, Sandy, for this fond remembrance. We will all miss Sinclair’s.

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