Appalachian Regional Commission Awards $300,000 Grant Toward Reopening of the Parkway’s Bluffs Restaurant

Published Monday, March 19, 2018 at 10:29 am

Doughton Park, Blue Ridge Parkway – Thanks to a grant of $300,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is taking a large step toward the reopening of Bluffs Coffee Shop at Doughton Park, milepost 241 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The grant is a critical boost in the effort to bring this shuttered facility back to life and revive its role as an economic engine for Alleghany County and nearby towns, including Sparta. For 60 years, Bluffs Coffee Shop was a favorite destination for travelers as well as community members, who came for the housemade fried chicken and beautiful scenery.

“Over the years, requests to reopen Bluffs Coffee Shop have poured in from neighbors and Parkway travelers alike,” said Willa Mays, Chief  Development Officer of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “ARC’s support reinforces the significant economic and cultural value of this local landmark.”

The grant will support the purchase of updated equipment and furniture to make the operation financially feasible and sustainable. The significant cost of upgraded equipment and building repairs had deterred potential concession applications in the past. ARC’s support complements a direct appropriation of $350,000 by the North Carolina General Assembly announced in 2017 to fund construction and equipment needs at the site.

Built in 1949, the 76-seat coffee shop served as an informal visitor’s center for Alleghany County, orienting travelers to outdoor recreation opportunities at Doughton Park as well as attractions off the Parkway. The coffee shop and restaurant closed in 2010 after a new concessionaire was not identified to take over the lease for the facility. While unoccupied, the building fell into disrepair, making it unsuitable for reopening until extensive repairs and equipment upgrades are complete. Activity returned to a smaller adjacent stone building at Bluffs when Eastern National opened the Doughton Park Visitor Center and Camp Store in June of 2017.

The National Park Service recently issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) regarding the future use of Bluffs Restaurant. Interested parties are invited submit their concept(s) for potential future use of the historic coffee shop by May 4. Complete information about this RFEI is available at go.nps.gov/BluffsRFEI and includes location information, the restaurant’s past performance and submission information requirements for responses. This RFEI is seeking possible operational models of the restaurant and is issued solely for information and planning purposes; it does not commit the interested party or government in any way.

The ongoing effort to revitalize Doughton Park is a collaboration between community members, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Alleghany County, Sparta, chambers of commerce, and additional partners.

Individuals can contribute to the project at www.brpfoundation.org/doughtonpark.

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About the Appalachian Regional Commission
ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia. For more information, visit www.arc.gov.

About the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the primary nonprofit fundraising partner, 501(c)(3), of the Blue Ridge Parkway, helping ensure cultural and historical preservation, natural resource protection, educational outreach, and visitor enjoyment now and for future generations. Since its inception in 1997, the nonprofit has worked with donors to invest more than $12 million in critical projects along the scenic road. For more information, visit brpfoundation.org.

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