'It has to stay': New Gold Rush owner plans Thursday reopening

New Gold Rush Cafe owner Korey Vazquez stands outside the restaurant on Broadway Street on Saturday. Vazquez announced his purchase of the restaurant, formerly owned by Ken White, on Friday.

Korey Vazquez first dipped his toes into the culinary world a few decades ago with a bit of garlic powder.

“My mom, bless her heart, only used salt and pepper,” Vazquez said.

Growing up in Graves County, Vazquez said he developed a taste for more complex seasonings at friends’ houses, and he finally decided to take a chance at home.

“One time, my mom made soup or something. I went behind her, put garlic powder and something else in it,” he said.

It was a hit.

“She said, ‘You can start cooking now.’ ”

Since then, Vazquez worked at a catering business in Colorado and at one point planned to open a restaurant locally, but those plans fell through.

His purchase of Gold Rush Cafe in Paducah, in a deal announced Friday, realized a longtime dream and, in the process, rescued a popular local establishment from an uncertain future after its former owner was charged with federal crimes.

The restaurant, along with Southside establishment Ken’s Place, had been closed since late June, after former owner Ken White was arrested and charged with attempted enticement of a minor.

Other people knew of Vazquez’s dream of running a restaurant and approached him about a potential purchase.

“One of my friends said, ‘You love that place. Why don’t you buy it?’ ”

After several failed attempts in recent weeks to secure a loan, Vazquez found success, and plans to reopen the restaurant for business Thursday.

“I wanted to save it. I love it. These people, I love them.”

For Vazquez, keeping Gold Rush open is about more than finally running a culinary establishment.

“My cousin introduced me five, six years ago and I fell in love with it. I’ve just been coming ever since” he said.

And more than the food, which he calls “amazing,” Vazquez said he’s always been greeted with a personal level of service that’s made him feel at home in the establishment.

“Hey Korey with a K. Black coffee, ice water easy on the ice,” he said.

“The customers become like family. The staff here is such caring, loving people.”

He said he was told a story about a couple who first met at the cafe, why typifies the spirit he loves about the place.

“Their first date was here. One’s from Memphis, one’s from St. Louis. They have come here every year since then,” he said.

“Stories like that are why I want to save this place.”

Vazquez plans to keep the standard hours of 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.

He said he’s considered possible future changes like adding some items to the menu, changing some of the design and potentially extending the hours. But he wants the establishment to retain the character and the service that have made it a community fixture in the 20-plus years it’s stood at 400 Broadway Street.

“It has to stay,” he said.