Couple reflects on Hallmark Restaurant where they first met amid closure

Mercedes McDowell first met her husband at Hallmark's Restaurant and would frequent it through...
Mercedes McDowell first met her husband at Hallmark's Restaurant and would frequent it through their relationship(Mercedes McDowell)
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 8:11 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Community members were surprised to see a sign on the door at Hallmark’s Restaurant in Killeen saying it will be closed for renovations. Employees tell KWTX the remodel will end the Hallmark era and subsequently change the name and menu.

“A little piece of my heart kind of dropped,” David Guthrie Junior said when he found out the Killeen staple was closing. He was hired as a bust boy there in his first ever job back in the 80′s.

The restaurant had been open for more than 40 years, at its peak under Jerry D Henderson during a time when few restaurants sat along Central Texas Expressway.

A sign on the door read Monday “We will be closing Monday June 13, 2022 for renovations until further notice... thank you”. Inside the lights were off and boxes filled with aprons could be seen on some of the tables.

Residents knew the diner for its all-you-can-eat Catfish days and 24 hours of service.

“Everyone went there especially after bars and nightclubs closed,” Mercedes McDowell remembered. “I don’t know where everyone will go late at night now.”

She and her family now live in Kansas, but say Hallmark was an integral part of her life in Killeen.

“I met my husband on March 31st, 2016. I was there drinking coffee [at Hallmark] in the middle of the night drawing. He had just been stationed at Fort Hood days earlier and sat in a booth near me. Eventually he got bored or curious or something and he kind of looked over to see what I was drawing. We started talking,” McDowell remembers.

“We sat and drank our black coffee, I handed him a blank piece of paper and we sat there drawing into the night,” she explained.

She says they were friends for a while before they started dating and eventually getting married, but through it all never forgot the place where they first became acquainted.

“It became our date night thing,” McDowell said.

They eventually brought their kids there, and went for all of life’s special occasions.

“The day he would deploy we would go there and then when he would get back he would go home, shower and we would run over there for dinner,” she said.

She says the wait staff at Hallmark was always great, she says she took wedding photos for one of the waitresses and remembers another who always teased her and her husband on Sundays when they came in in Seattle Seahawks gear.

Even their kids got to know the restaurant and its staff and patrons well. She says her son always got a stuffed animal from another restaurant regular during visits.

Residents remember Hallmark Restaurant
Residents remember Hallmark Restaurant(Mercedes McDowell)

Although they are now stationed in Kansas, McDowell says they frequent Central Texas all the time, and when they do they always make a stop at Hallmark.

“I just wish we had more notice that it was closing, we would have come back one last time.” She says she hopes to get one of the menus from the restaurant.

She has a collection of Polaroid photos from their visits to the restaurant that she wants to display along with the menu.

Her story and connection to the restaurant isn’t unique to her family.

After news of the restaurants closure spread on social media dozens reflected on fond memories there.

Jodi Ross was just at Hallmark a few weeks ago, and hadn’t even realized it closed.

“My father was a long time resident of Killeen and Harker Heights,” she said. “He passed away last year at the age of 94 from Alzheimer’s and Hallmark was his favorite place to go. Me and my sister-in-law tend to go there from time to time just in remembrance of my daddy,” Ross explained.

“Its shocking, its like the end of an era. I remember Hallmark being a place for everybody,” Guthrie Jr. said.

McDowell and Guthrie say after Henderson died the restaurant had its ups and downs. They say the quality of the food changed and slowly lost some of its polularity.

Still, they can’t believe the Killeen staple will soon be gone.

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