SALEM – Those traveling down Thompson Memorial in the Hanging Rock area might suddenly find themselves wondering if they haven’t suddenly been transported back in time.
A familiar and much beloved establishment has re-opened its doors: Billy’s Barn in back in business.
The restaurant and lounge, located at 1790 Thompson Memorial Dr., originally opened its doors in 1969. Billy Miles Sr., who previously owned Billy’s BBQ located on the Truck Route in Salem, had the building built by former Mayor Jim Taliaferro’s company Salem Contracting, with some help from Billy Miles Jr.
“The building was built in the summer of ’68, I actually dug the footers for this building by hand with a pick and a shovel,” said Miles, the current owner of Billy’s Barn. “My dad thought that would be a good way for me to spend my summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college,” he added, noting he was 19 at the time.
Billy Miles Sr. ran the original popular restaurant and lounge from 1969–1993. After that, they began leasing it out. It became the “Belly of the Beast” night spot, and then at one point was the Salem Moose Lodge.
As time went on the building began to lose its luster and fall into a bit of disrepair, and leasing it became more of a headache and a hassle.
“The wheels started turning and I started thinking. I talked it over with my wife, Linda, and we made a decision that as long as Chad was agreeable to be the general manager of the business,” Miles said, referring to their eldest son who has spent most of his adult life in the restaurant business.
“We decided to go ahead and shut everything down and work as hard as we could to get the property back up to standards and into good shape” said Miles, who spent the last four months months fixing the place up, starting with plumbing and electricity.”
Miles laid the tile flooring himself, along with the help of Erin Murphy. “I’d grout the tile, she’d clean it. She is the “Do-Everything-Girl,” he said of Murphy who is also service manager for the wait-staff. “She’s been in-valuable” added Chad.
Along with Murphy’s help and that of Mark Richardson, a good friend of Miles who is skilled in carpentry, they slowly began restoring the location they refer to as the “ole girl.” The original woodwork is still there, though now looking like new. A larger, new dance floor has been put down and the old rails that used to surround it have been removed.
The bars have new tops to them, all the tables and chairs are brand new, everything has been scrubbed and painted, and the DJ equipment has been reworked.
They opened up “The Plough Room” located off the lounge side, which has a brick fireplace in it as well as a large TV for watching games.
While one of the most popular features of the old place was the buffets, they’ve changed the menu around, too. Chad designed the menu himself and has updated it significantly. “When I wrote the menu I wanted to focus on value.” said the younger Miles.
“I want people to feel like they’ve gotten something for their money. It’s an American eclectic menu, with everything on it from mozzarella sticks to a Low Country boil.”
The latter is a mixture of seafood, andouille sausage, potatoes, onions, and corn on the cob.
“It looks great when it comes out” he added, noting that they’re still working on perfecting the recipe, but are “very close to it.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the core values which Billy Miles Sr. opened with in 1969. “His ideas always included three things: Make people welcome to come in the door, give them great service. Make it clean. Have good food. That really was his formula to being successful, along with his personality.”
The new Billy’s Barn hosted a soft-opening for close friends last weekend. Lee Eubanks of Salem was one of those. “I used to go there a lot back in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s when it was in its hey-day. It’s where everyone went to have a good time” he reminisced. “I think the place looks fantastic now. It was very refreshing that it is non-smoking now. We really enjoyed the food. I heard a lot of people commenting on how the food was really tasty and how good it was. Billy’s dad was known for good steaks and I think that’ll be back.”
Just as the old Billy’s Barn was known as the place to go hear a band, so does the new place intend to be. They plan on having djs, starting with Jerry English who is a member of the Carolina Beach Music DJs Association coming out next week, along with a wide variety of bands, with a special focus on local area musicians and bands.
Billy Miles and his wife Linda, who works at the restaurant as accounts manager, live in Salem, where he was a coach and teacher from 1972-2000.
They have three sons. Chad, 40, of Roanoke; Shane, 37, and wife who live in Ashland, Ky., with their son Brock, 5; and Travis, 32, and Jenny who live in Salem with their children Landon, 5, and Maggie, 1.
In keeping with the familial tradition of the establishment and Brock each made a contribution to the new décor in the form of two paintings that proudly hang in the dining area.
Their proud grandfather was quick to point out that Maggie will make one as well when she’s older and that children’s menu items are all named after the three children.
– Carrie Cox