Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Coach & Four torn down

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A local landmark for more than 70 years was demolished in 45 minutes Monday, as workers tore down the former Coach & Four Restaurant near the city's Ohio riverfront.

Joe Martin of the demolition crew makes a final check of the building.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
It took just 45 minutes to turn the vernerable eatery into a pile of rubble.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
The cottage-style restaurant at 214 Scott Blvd. started serving food in the '30s and later became known for its barbecue fare.

However, it was best-known from the era of Tom Ferguson and Kevin Porter, who acquired the neighborhood hangout in 1981. Ferguson and self-trained chef Porter transformed the little restaurant into an establishment that turned out a range of reasonably priced entrees worthy of the finest French restaurants.

The business closed four years ago, when Bill Butler, president and CEO of Corporex Cos., acquired the 1-acre site for development.

Butler, who is largely responsible for developing Covington's riverfront, plans to build a low-rise office and residential building there when the economy improves, said Corporex spokeswoman Laura Cook. Until then, plans call for converting the site into 91 parking spaces within the next six weeks.

"A little piece of the neighborhood is gone," said former regular David Herriman, a Covington real estate developer who lived within walking distance of the Coach & Four. "It was a great hangout with great food, great music and a super atmosphere. I saw people there from the neighborhood as well as places like Hyde Park and East Walnut Hills. The regulars were from all over.''

The Coach & Four became a neighborhood hangout in the late 1970s, when Tom Sketch took over the business and served all-you-can-eat family-style dinners one night a week. Regulars called themselves "the Covington eating pigs.''

Under Ferguson and Porter, the restaurant reopened on a shoestring budget, but put the money where it counted - into the food and service - Herriman said.

"When they started up, they had paper placemats and none of the glasses matched,'' Herriman said. "They had a little bar on the side and only enough money to buy one bottle of scotch. When that ran out, they would send someone down to the corner liquor store to buy another bottle.''

When Herriman discovered the restaurant, which featured a specialty of pecan-breaded chicken, he said he persuaded Ferguson and Porter to close one day and serve a special meal for his friends. Thanks to word-of-mouth from regulars and rave reviews from restaurant critics, the restaurant was soon off and running.

After Butler obtained the property, Ferguson and Porter opened a new Coach & Four at the Edgecliff in East Walnut Hills on the edge of Eden Park.

While sad to see the Coach & Four go, Covington Mayor Butch Callery said he's excited about the site's prospects for development.

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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