One of Denton’s favorite restaurants, watering holes and jazz music venues, Sweetwater Grill & Tavern, has changed ownership and will reopen in June.
Jimmy Meredith, who opened the restaurant in 1996, and his wife, Karen Meredith, sold the restaurant to Rick and Ryann Reid in a transaction that was finalized last week.
“Our goal five years ago when I bought my other business partner out was to get it to a place where we could sell it and retire,” Jimmy Meredith said. “We have nine grandchildren and we want to spend time with them.”
“Plus, this is a hard business. It’s a rough business,” Karen Meredith said. “Jimmy’s put tons of time and energy into it, and not too long ago we looked around and couldn’t remember when we had a day off last. We’ve been working toward this, and we feel really good because we were able to find a local couple to come in.”
The Reids already own two businesses in town and said that buying Sweetwater was an easy decision after the Merediths talked to them about wanting to retire. Rick Reid said he has been coming to Sweetwater for 13 years, and considering how frequently he and Ryann are at the restaurant, it made sense to buy.
“It was something that, if I’m going to be here four or five days a week anyways, we might as well own it,” Rick Reid said.
“We’ve just always loved the location, and we love what Jimmy and Karen built, so we’re honored that they trust us to continue their legacy,” Ryann Reid said.
The Reids will keep the name and much of the Sweetwater flair but plan to update the layout and seating. They plan to extend the bar area, take down the half walls and redo the bathrooms. There will also be slight changes to the menu, and an updated mixology concept for cocktails.
“It’ll still be comfortable for the regulars who have been coming here for the full 18 years; they’ll still get the same Sweetwater,” Ryann Reid said. “You’ll look around and see Sweetwater.”
The change in ownership does not mean the Merediths are leaving town, they said. They plan to stay in Denton and remain active in the community, like helping to make Walnut Street a pedestrian-friendly corridor, and keep in touch with the people they’ve met through the business.
“So many people were so sad, but we keep telling them that we’re still here, we’re still friends and we’ll still see you, we’ll just see you in a different place or at a different time,” Karen Meredith said. “It’s been almost like in a divorce in a way.”
The Merediths held an impromptu farewell dinner Friday, March 14, the weekend before the sale was finalized, where regulars such as Scott Campbell were able to have a final sendoff.
For Campbell, Sweetwater has always been a staple, even when he wasn’t living in town.
“It’s always been kind of a center, I think, of Denton culture and society, really,” he said. “I moved away for 20 years, and every time I’d come home, which was a couple of times a year, the first place I always went was Sweetwater.”
Regulars such as Campbell are what the Merediths will miss about the business. The customers have become like family, Karen Meredith said, recalling favorite seating arrangements and countless love stories of couples who met at the tavern.
“I think the strongest thread through this whole thing — the food’s been great, the drink’s been great, the music’s been great — the relationships have been the best,” she said. “To me, those are the things that last.”
Jimmy Meredith, who was the head chef and had two restaurants in Denton before Sweetwater, said he’ll miss seeing people engaging with each other over drinks or his food.
“The real joy and great feeling I’ve had over the years is walking through the restaurant, seeing people eating my food, communicating and enjoying themselves,” he said.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.