BRAMWELL, W.Va. (AP) — A downtown Bramwell restaurant harkening back to America’s past while serving classic food and milkshakes to off-road adventurers and other tourists is being featured soon by a show highlighting the nation’s independently-owed eateries.
The Bramwell Corner Shop offers diners an old-fashioned soda fountain experience. Opened in 2010, it was soon bringing in ATV riders coming to explore a new branch of the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail, dubbed the Pocahontas Trail, that had opened in Mercer County.
Fifties and Sixties music was playing from the soda fountain’s juke box when Luis Rivera, the host of “America’s Best Restaurants,” came into the Bramwell Corner Shop and looked around.
“This is really nice,” Rivera said, smiling as he drank in the decor and fixtures. “You don’t see this anymore. This is really cool.”
John Husband, who owns the Corner Shop with his wife, Donna, told Rivera how the Town of Bramwell once had the most millionaires per capita in the United States and pointed out the fine homes the coal barons had created. Rivera and videographer Austin Turner were soon shooting video and doing interviews for the “America’s Best Restaurants” episode as well as checking a menu to see what they wanted to try. Items such as the Johnny Cash Millionaire, The Duke Chili Slaw Burger and the WV Mountaineer Pepperoni Roll were calling.
Rivera said that “America’s Best Restaurants” looks for privately-owned mom-and-pop establishments.
“Oh, I feel like I’m stepping back through time,” Rivera said about his first impressions. “This is really, really cool. There’s a lot of different things here from yesteryear that you don’t get to see anymore like the soda fountain counter, the signs, all the old-school candies. It just gives you this sense of nostalgia that’s absolutely fantastic and it’s sort of been lost to time.”
And Rivera declared that he was “one thousand percent” going to try the food.
“I can’t wait to try the food,” he said. “I can’t wait to shoot the episode.”
Donna Husband remembered how the Bramwell Corner Shop was founded.
“We bought the building thinking we were going to do something totally different,” she said. “But we watched a program on the Food Network called ‘Unwrapped’ and they had a special on old-time soda fountains and they interviewed soda jerks and a place in Chicago which renovates the fountains and all that. and after we saw that, we knew we had to bring back exactly what was here as closely as we could get it.”
The Husbands started restoring the old soda fountain.
“We took the fountain to Chicago, to the place we saw on there” she said. “It’s called American Soda Fountain and they renovated it and they did everything on it, so we actually make the cokes with the syrup like they did back in the day; so we actually have the cokes they made back in the Forties and Fifties.”
The revitalized Victorian soda fountain was opened before the Hatfield-McCoy Trail reached into Mercer County, so there were tea parties for ladies and those sort of events at first.
“But once the trail came, we decided to go more with the theme of the Sixties and Seventies, and it’s really caught on,” Donna Husband said.
“America’s Favorite Restaurants” contacted John and Donna Husband after seeing the sofa fountain’s website and all its likes and positive comments. This led to a telephone interview and setting the date to make an episode.
Many of the people coming through the doors react to the decor the same way Rivera reacted when he arrived in Bramwell. The restaurant’s appearance adds to its appeal and makes it “a happy place,” Donna Husband said.
“I think a lot of it is the memories of a time gone by, and we’re trying to bring that back and preserve that,” she added. “Just a happy place. We have homemade ice cream, so they get all the specialties with that.”
Hamburgers and other choices on the menu are freshly made.
“We hand pat them,” she said about making the hamburger patties. “Most of the things we do in the kitchen we hand do. You’re getting a real burger.”
The upcoming episodes will help tell more people about the Bramwell Corner Shop, which has earned other national distinctions since it opened.
“We’ve already been named Best Milkshake in West Virginia by USA Today,” Donna Husband said. “There was a blog called Spoon University and they named us Top 10 in the United States Best Milkshakes.”
The “America’s Favorite Restaurant’s” episode will soon be added to that list.
“I feel like this is really going to give us some recognition,” she said. “We’ve always wanted the locals to come and a lot of people still say they haven’t heard of us, so we feel like now they will,” she added.
Jeff Disibbio, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias, who helped Rivera learn more about the town, said the episode will benefit all of Mercer County.
“Absolutely. Any time we can get a nationally syndicated show to come and focus on our area, that’s always a benefit,” Disibbio said. “A rising tide raises all ships. If they’re doing a location here, that will attract folks to other areas and it will also bring folks to experience the benefits of some of the other things we have around here.”
Mayor Louise Stoker visited the Corner Shop while the episode was being made.
“I think it brings attention to a place where the owners worked so hard to make it a success,” she said.
Rivera said the Bramwell Corner Shop episode will premier within six to eight weeks.
“It will be broadcast on their Facebook page, also on our Facebook page, also on our YouTube channel and on americasbestrestaurants.com,” he stated.