The couple reflect on the Hallmark restaurant where they first met amid the shutdown
KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) – Members of the community were surprised to see a sign on the door of the Hallmark restaurant in Killeen stating that it will be closed for renovations. Employees tell KWTX that the remodel will end the Hallmark era and subsequently change the name and menu.
“A little piece of my heart kind of dropped,” David Guthrie Junior said when he found out the Killeen staple was closing. He was hired there as a bust in his very first job in the 80s.
The restaurant had been in business for over 40 years, in its heyday under Jerry D Henderson at a time when few restaurants sat along the Central Texas Expressway.
A sign on the door on Monday said ‘We will be closing Monday June 13, 2022 for renovations until further notice…thank you’. Inside, the lights were off and boxes full of aprons were visible on some tables.
Residents knew the restaurant for its all-you-can-eat catfish days and 24-hour service.
“Everyone went there especially after the bars and nightclubs closed,” recalls Mercedes McDowell. “I don’t know where everyone will be going late at night now.”
She and her family now live in Kansas, but say Hallmark was an integral part of her life in Killeen.
“I met my husband on March 31, 2016. I was there drinking coffee [at Hallmark] in the middle of the night drawing. He had just been stationed at Fort Hood a few days earlier and was sitting in a cabin near me. Eventually he got bored or curious or something and he kind of looked to see what I was drawing. We started talking,” McDowell recalled.
“We sat down and drank our black coffee, I handed him a blank sheet of paper and we sat there sketching into the night,” she explained.
She says they were friends for a while before they started dating and eventually got married, but through it all, they never forgot where they first met.
“It became our date night,” McDowell said.
They eventually brought their children there and went there for all the special occasions in life.
“The day he would be deployed, we would go there, and then when he came back, he would come home, take a shower and we would run over there for dinner,” she said.
She says the waiters at Hallmark were always great, she says she took wedding photos for one of the waitresses and remembers another who always teased her and her husband on Sundays when they came in Seattle Seahawks gear.
Even their children got to know the restaurant, its staff and its customers well. She says her son always received a stuffed animal from another restaurant regularly during his visits.
Although they are now stationed in Kansas, McDowell says they frequent Central Texas all the time, and when they do, they always make a stop at Hallmark.
“I just wish we had more notice of it closing, we would have come back one last time.” She says she hopes to get one of the restaurant menus.
She has a collection of Polaroid photos from their restaurant visits that she wants to display with the menu.
His story and connection to the restaurant is not unique to his family.
After news of the restaurant closures spread on social media, dozens of people reflected on fond memories there.
Jodi Ross was just at Hallmark a few weeks ago and didn’t even realize it was closed.
“My dad was a long time resident of Killeen and Harker Heights,” she said. “He passed away last year at the age of 94 from Alzheimer’s disease and Hallmark was his favorite place to go. Me and my sister-in-law tend to go there once in a while just to remember my father,” Ross explained.
“It’s shocking, it’s like the end of an era. I remember Hallmark being a place for everyone,” Guthrie Jr said.
McDowell and Guthrie say that after Henderson’s death, the restaurant had its ups and downs. They say the quality of the food has changed and slowly lost some of its popularity.
Still, they can’t believe that Killeen’s staple will soon be gone.
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