The first apparent business casualty connected to the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus has hit Madisonville.
“Tumbleweed is closed permanently,” the Hopkins County tourism website said Thursday.
The Tumbleweed Restaurants site no longer shows a Madisonville location on its map. A “closed” sign was set up by the door at Parkway Plaza Mall, with no explanation.
Only last Friday, the president of the Hopkins County Regional Chamber of Commerce recommended a dinner at Tumbleweed on Facebook.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Libby Spencer said Thursday. She heard rumors of a shutdown Wednesday night, but had no confirmation. Spencer had planned to check the restaurant during the late afternoon.
“They made no mention of it” during a call last week, Spencer added. “Things were going well.”
A message left with Tumbleweed’s corporate office in Louisville, Twin Management, was not returned. Its Facebook feed did not mention the closing. Spencer said she had not heard from the company, either.
Spencer said Tumbleweed reported 40 full-time employees and no part-time employees in early March. She planned to have the restaurants cater Chamber focus group meetings this week, but those meetings were canceled in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The closing of Tumbleweed leaves only two restaurants at the mall – Tommy D'z and Godfather's Pizza.
Tumbleweed has 18 other locations, mostly in the Louisville area. The closest one to Hopkins County now is on the U.S. 41 strip in Henderson. Twin Management also operates Rapid Fired Pizza, which has restaurants in Kentucky and four other states.
The Auntie Anne’s pretzel food truck made its first Madisonville appearance in several weeks Thursday. It parked in its usual spot across from the Government Center, much to the surprise to Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield Jr.
“I went out a couple of times and told them to keep safe social distancing,” Whitfield said. He added the customers he saw seemed to abide by that.
Spencer said she visited 15 other Hopkins County businesses Thursday. She described traffic as “a little slow,” as employers face a challenging time.
“I don’t see it getting any easier,” Spencer added.
On the health front, Hopkins County Health Director Denise Beach said Thursday that no COVID-19 cases have surfaced yet locally.
“Everything we got back was negative,” Beach said during a planning meeting. She had no data on how many tests were submitted locally, but a map posted by the Kentucky Health Cabinet showed it was no more than 15. On Wednesday, Beach said the number of Hopkins County tests was six.
Coronavirus tests were confirmed for the first time Thursday in three nearby counties. Beshear said a 61-year-old woman in Christian County, a 51-year-old man in Daviess County and a woman in Henderson County whose age was not disclosed, have all tested positive for the virus.
Beshear also announced a second Kentuckian has died from COVID-19. The victim is a 64-year-old woman who died in Jefferson County last Friday.
Beshear put the confirmed coronavirus count across Kentucky at 47. State maps indicate they are in 15 counties. So far, 639 people have been tested.
The governor also confirmed Thursday that “houses of worship” are included in a ban on all public gatherings. Several Hopkins County churches had open services Wednesday night.
The governor also announced that alcoholic beverages now will be allowed in home delivery by restaurants.