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The Bricks closing April 22 following sale to MS Industries

When officials from MS Industries II, LLC, approached Trent and Michele Stephenson about purchasing the Bricks Inn and Restaurant, the couple didn’t answer right away.

The following week, after Trent suffered a heart attack and had three coronary stents inserted in a procedure last Tuesday, their answer came.

It was time to sell.

The Bricks Restaurant will close at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 22. When and under what name it reopens will be up to Steven Smith, MS Industries CEO.

“I really think this whole process was driven by God,” Michele said Monday afternoon. “They came to us two or three weeks ago and said they were going to open a restaurant in downtown Russellville and asked if we wanted to sell. We said maybe.

“When Trent had his heart attack and three stents with 90 percent blockage, we contacted them and made the deal. There was a lot of stress in owning a restaurant, but we love doing it. It was just time to sell.”

So just over two months after its grand opening, the Bricks Inn and Restaurant will close its doors for good, at least under the ownership of the Stephensons. MS Industries’ agreement with the Stephensons includes the name Bricks Inn and Restaurant, so it could be reopened later under the same name, Michele said.

The Stephensons purchased the 7,400-square-foot historic building located at 114 North Jackson Avenue in July of 2017. They undertook a major renovation and opened their doors February 19.

They are no longer accepting reservations for their five-room hotel, but Michele said that all pending reservations will be honored.

While their tenure as restaurant owners was brief, the Stephensons say they learned a lot about the business during the two-month run.

“I think our food might not have been what everyone wanted, but we wanted something different,” Michele said. “We didn’t want to serve the same food every other establishment serves. We wanted to bring something different to Russellville.”

Michele admits operating a restaurant is a full-time, ‘round-the-clock, stressful business. And her husband’s health is far more important than continuing down that path.

“We are in a very stressful business. And we’d rather see Trent be healthy than own a business,” Michele said. “We love seeing people come in each day and visiting with them so we’ll miss that.

“My dream was for people from Florence to say, ‘Let’s go to Russellville to eat at the Bricks,’ and they did, so that was rewarding.”

The hardest part of selling and closing down was informing the 15 employees at the Bricks, including executive chef Ryan Matthews and his wife Amy, who also is part of the Bricks’ team.

“Unfortunately, news got out before we had a chance to tell them,” Michele said. “Our employees started texting the night we were at the hospital. That was hard, because we wanted to be face-to-face when we told them.”

Michele said MS Industries’ ownership of the building and business will be final on or before June 1, 2018. There is nothing in the sale agreement that mandates when MS will reopen the restaurant, or whether it will open at all.

But Trent expects to see the restaurant reopened some time this year.

“We just had someone offer us more money than we could refuse, so we made the deal,” Trent said. “The fun part was putting this together—the construction, renovation and decorating. But living here all the time is the part we didn’t like.

“It was just a business opportunity, and it made too much sense not to do it. And my having the heart attack sealed the deal.”

The Stephensons said Matthews will begin a new job next month.

“Russellville is going to miss a chef like Ryan bringing in steelhead trout, red snapper, sweet potato biscuits and black eyed pea fritters. Ryan is the real deal,” Trent said.

Although his vision for the Bricks didn’t turn out like he planned, Trent hopes the venture will serve as an economic kick-start for downtown Russellville.

“We just wanted to make Russellville a better place, and maybe we started a spark down here that will help get downtown going again,” he said.

The Bricks will feature live music both of its remaining Saturdays. This Saturday, April 14, Joseph Baldwin will perform from 6-9 p.m. The following Saturday, April 21, Haley and Sam Webster will perform from 6-9 p.m.

Officials from MS Industries II, LLC, were unavailable for comment prior to press time.

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