After three years of serving nostalgic cocktails and comfort food out of a refurbished gas station, Thunderbird Station has closed. Its last day was November 29, according to owner Kim Finch.
“We just don’t have enough customers to stay open,” Finch told D Magazine Thursday. “This place has struggled since the minute it opened.”
Finch, who also owns Double Wide across the street and Single Wide on Lower Greenville, affectionately refers to Thunderbird Station as one of her “babies.” The retro bar-restaurant opened September 2020, the height of the pandemic, against all odds. At the time, Gov. Greg Abbott’s pandemic orders prevented bars from operating, but Thunderbird Station debuted with a full kitchen. Finch spent about a year fixing up the decades-old gas station and turned it into a kitschy watering hole that served sloppy Joes and Frito pies on a 5,400-square-foot patio.
Finch had been pining over the building for several years, she told D in 2020. The station isn’t historic, but it was built in 1922 and was a service shop for more than 60 years, until 2002. She hoped to preserve some of the past with Thunderbird. She worked within the bones of the place and doubled down on the car station aesthetic, neon lighting and all.
“It’s been there forever, and I didn’t want to see Dallas tear down a piece of history,” she says. “I just wanted to see it stick around.”
Finch doesn’t plan to reopen Thunderbird Station in a new spot, though she wonders if its location may have affected the business. The bar is located on the outskirts of Deep Ellum and teeters on Exposition Park. Deep Ellum is also changing, she says, and the neighborhood “gets a bad rap.” But she poured a lot into Thunderbird, and she knew it had paid off to some degree. Customers who made it there were vocal about how much they loved the concept, she says, and she often had regulars.
Finch says she tried everything in her imagination to keep the bar open, even pulling some money from her other two bars to keep it afloat. It’s been a grind since the beginning. She’s heard from others in the industry that the last three years in particular have been especially difficult in the hospitality business.
Trying to keep the bar running was “heartbreaking” and took a toll on Finch, mentally and physically. She says she plans to redirect her focus on Double Wide and Single Wide. Later, she wants to step into consulting to help other concepts with branding and new ideas—that’s the part she really enjoys, she says.
“I’ll miss it, and I wish we could have figured out how to make it work,” she says. “It’s just, we have to appreciate what we do have and keep going.”