With a model train circling above, historic photos lining the walls and an owner who knows how to make legendary fried chicken, Kinch’s restaurant in Rock Hill was a popular spot for local residents, town leaders and even presidential candidates.
For 18 years, the restaurant served breakfast, meat and vegetable plates, burgers and plenty of fried chicken.
“Fried chicken is what we’re known for,” said owner Kinch Edwards. “We had a lot of fantastic, loyal customers over the years.”
Using a friend’s recipe, Edwards’ pressure-fried his chicken in peanut oil and marinated it overnight in a five-sauce marinade. He is keeping the recipe a secret.
After 30 years, on Dec. 22, 2017, Edwards closed the doors one last time to Kinch’s.
“It’s been fun, but I think I’m getting out at the right time,” the 63-year-old said. “We’ve had a good run but it’s time for me to do something else. From the heart, I just can’t do it anymore.”
Edwards now works at O’Darby’s Fine Wine and Spirits, which has three locations in Rock Hill.
“What I’m feeling now is a renewed work ethic by working for someone else,” Edwards said. “I worked for myself and my family for so long that I put that perspective on the back burner. I’ve enjoyed coming in and thanking people who are helping me along in my new venture.”
Edwards said his new job has allowed him to get back to the part he loved the most while running the restaurant.
“I’m back to talking face to face with people, which is what I would miss about the restaurant, just talking to people,” he said.
Edwards opened Kinch’s in 1999 in a downtown Rock Hill building that had been an army and navy supply store and a paint store. The outline of the ‘O’ and ‘S’ of the original army store sign are still visible on the front of the building.
“It was one of those old-school meeting places where you got together,” said Rock Hill Police Department’s Mark Bollinger. “Things got accomplished just by meeting at Kinch’s. It’s going to be a void that’s going to be missed.”
It was one of those old school meeting places where you got together. Things got accomplished just by meeting at Kinch’s.
Mark Bollinger, Rock Hill resident
Edwards opened his first Kinch’s in Columbia in 1988, after leaving a corporate job with a fast-food chain.
After marrying his wife, Joanne, and moving to Rock Hill, Edwards spent 11 years commuting to Columbia before the couple decided to make a home in Rock Hill. The Edwards still live above the restaurant site.
“Everyone embraced us,” Edwards said of opening the Rock Hill restaurant. “We would see all walks of life in here sitting either in the same table or at tables nearby.”
In addition to the regulars, vice presidential candidates, city managers and Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys often stopped by, he said.
The people, atmosphere and food was what kept Rock Hill native Jim Gill coming back.
“It was one of the great downtown eateries,” Gill said. “It had the best fried chicken in South Carolina as far as I’m concerned.”
It had the best fried chicken in South Carolina as far as I’m concerned. It was a great place to gather and see people and the food was good.
Jim Gill, Rock Hill resident
Lynn Martin, a Fort Mill resident who works in Rock Hill, said he would meet friends at Kinch’s every morning for breakfast. He said he also often enjoyed a lunch of meat and vegetables.
“I’m sad that it’s not there,” Martin said. “I was having breakfast with the same group of folks for many years.”
Edwards said he also had a kinship with his employees. In 2012, the restaurant celebrated the marriage of Kenny Hope and Anita Roseborough, who worked together in the Kinch’s kitchen.
“We had great employees over the years who are dear to my heart and who have worked hard,” Edwards said. “I’ve also enjoyed the camaraderie with other restaurant owners.”
As health regulations grew stricter, Edwards said the restaurant business has changed.
“The health department is doing a fantastic job in trying to educate restaurant owners,” he said. “It used to be all you had to do to open up a restaurant was plug in a grill and put your sign up and get a business license.”
Through changing menus, changing locations and keeping up with the demands of the culinary world, Edwards said his bride of 29 years has stayed by him.
“My wife has been very patient,” he said.
Edwards said he values customer service and held himself and the restaurant to a high standard.
“I will not miss the pressure I put on myself over the years on trying to not let people wait,” he said. “That was probably my biggest thing in service. I don’t like people waiting on me.”
Edwards said he will miss seeing the regulars at Kinch’s each day.
“I’ll hopefully not miss seeing (those friends), but I’ll miss seeing them coming into the restaurant on a regular basis,” he said.
Edwards said he also will occasionally miss the food.
“I need some Kinch’s fried chicken,” he said.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082