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White Castle to be demolished, rebuilt

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Relaunch slated for summer with upgraded features, roomier design

By Marty Finley

The Elizabethtown White Castle on North Mulberry Street has temporarily closed and will be demolished to make way for a larger, sleeker restaurant employing about 20 more workers.

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The restaurant closed at 6 a.m. Sunday to accommodate the changes but is expected to return this summer with improved features, including the first open-kitchen design in the restaurant chain’s history, according to officials.

White Castle was aiming for a Memorial Day relaunch, but Shawna Jones, regional director of restaurant operations, said it likely will be the second week of June before the restaurant returns.

“That bars any complications,” she said.

In a news release issued Tuesday, White Castle officials said the nearly 20-year-old location will be razed and replaced with a modernized facility featuring a “kitchen of the future” design allowing patrons to watch as the restaurant’s signature hamburger sliders and other “Craver favorites” are prepared to serve.

“You’ll be able to see everything,” she said.

As part of the floor design, the kitchen will be constructed for “maximum comfort and efficiency” for the cooks who prepare the food and those who package the products for consumption.

Allowing customers to enjoy the “show” of food preparation is a throwback feature that pays tribute to the earliest days of White Castle before changes to exhaust systems forced the restaurant to cordon the kitchens off, Jones said.

“One of the cool things about going to White Castle was you could watch the hamburgers being made,” she said.

White Castle plans to test the new kitchen design in Elizabethtown during the next year and make any tweaks or adjustments needed before rolling it out nationally, Jones said.

She did not have an exact date for the demolition but said it could come as early as next Wednesday.

“We’re gutting it out and getting everything out as we speak,” she said.

Jones also did not have an estimate on proposed square footage, though the new structure will include a roomier front room, dining room and restrooms. The updated décor, meanwhile, will provide a “new, fun” look similar to the recent renovations at the Shepherdsville location, she said.

“It will be quite beautiful,” Jones said.

Once finished, the number of employees is expected to grow from 30 to 50, Jones said.

The drive-thru also will return for hungry patrons on the go, equipped with updated lighting and menu signs, according to a news release.

White Castle officials say the location will be missed during the upgrades but invited customers to sample the food at other White Castle locations in the absence of the Elizabethtown site.

To assure customers, Jones issued a promise that the quality of the product will remain the same.

“The taste of our food will not change,” she said. “That will be the same great taste as it’s always been.”

White Castle is a family-owned business headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, that operates more than 400 restaurants in 12 states, according to the release. The company was founded in Wichita, Kan., in 1921 and publicly touts itself as America’s first fast-food hamburger chain.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.