The Korner Gas and Grill is the heartbeat of Pax. Over the years, it has become a gathering place for those who live in the town.
But recently, things have started to taken a turn for the worse. Owner James Williams remembers back to when his business was a hot spot.”It was incredible when the coal mines were running full force, because you know you didnt have time to look up. You know you see your regulars every morning you got the wave you got the hollar, but it was a constant go a constant run”.
Ups and downs are not unusual for coal towns.
Williams said, “It’s been that way since I was a kid here growing up, you know I remember back in the early 70’s when coal was good and then the late 70’s when everything went belly up. You know everyone was struggling looking for work through the mid 80’s, you know, and then it went back up again, and then it fell again. It’s just like a yo yo. I wish the coal industry was more stable.”
About a year ago, The Pioneer Fuel’s Ewing Fork Number 1 Surface Mine shut down. Things have not been the same since.
Williams said,”It’s truly different, ugh, I guess you have more of a gloom and doom atmosphere now, because you know, when business is good, everyone has money, and everything is booming people get out and mingle and have a good time.
Crystral Bailey employee said, “It’s very hard because you get used to them, you make abond with them and then when their not here every day it causes you to worry, are they okay, are they safe, were they able to find work else where. You know, it hurts the school syetem as well, schools are closing down, you know it’s costing us money to get the schools to run and without the students there they cut our money, so without the coal mines it takes an affect on enerything.”
Since the coal industry has hit a major bust, it also makes it very difficult for Williams to keep his business BOOMING. Williams says he’s had to cut expenses wherever possible. And employees are — unfortunately — the first to take the hit.
Williams said, “You know you don’t need as many services, you don’t need as many cooks. It’s hard to tell somebody that used to work for you forty hours a week, now you only have twenty hours.”
According to the U-S Energy Information Administration, in 20-13, the number of new and reactivated coal mines fell to its lowest level in a decade. Currently, Pax only has one strip mine remaining. But the owners’ of Corner Gas and Grill aren’t giving up just yet.
Williams said, “I am very hopeful that things will pick back up, things will revive themselves and we’ll have coal mines again. I wish their were other industries in the area as well to help with that, unfortuantley theirs not. It would be great to see our community thrive again, because this used to be a beautiful, beautiful community, and we did have several businesses here in town and unfortunatley now we only have this one, it’s all we have left.”
Williams is working hard to keep his business afloat. Crystal Bailey explains how he’s tackling this momentous task.
Crystral Bailey employee said, “He actually has catering. He’s expanded into Charleston and outside of the Pax area to try and make our business grow.”
We did it to supplement the decrease in business. I’m usually in Charleston three times a week catering, it pays the bills for now.
While the Korner Gas and Grill is getting by for now, Williams says he truly believes in a short time things will turn around.
Williams said, Everything will be fine for us, but a lot of these people that are without jobs and have lost jobs, our hearts go out to them, we really do, we worry about them.