Local cowpokes, two-steppers and boot-scooters have probably been crying a few tears into their beers this past week after learning that country-themed dance clubGraham Central Station
The cowboy-friendly nightspot, which was located near Priest Drive and Elliott Road in Tempe, shut its doors on November 17 after kicking around the Valley for more than three decades, reportedly due to recent economic woes.
According to Roger Gearhart, president of Graham Brothers Entertainment (the Texas company that owned GCS), usiness tapered off at the club over the past year, forcing its closure.
"We just haven't been doing the same sort of business in the last year or so," he says.
Graham Central Station was a longtime favorite for countless members of the country crowd, line-dancing fans, and rowdy revelers, Graham's was a slice of southern-fried down-home decadence where the booze and beer came dirt-cheap (50-cent longnecks were the de rigeur) and the dance floor was often filled with denim-clad badonkadonks.
Patrons used to lineup outside the doors on weekends to gain access to any of the four distinct mini-clubs (including a karaoke bar Alley Cats, the '80s-themed Confetti, and a South Beach-style disco) that operated inside the cavernous establishment. The most popular area inside GCS was the country-western joint Rockin' Rodeo. It offered a mechanical bull as well as a huge dance floor where line-dancing and boot-scooting boogies were the norm.
Graham Central Station first debuted in 1979 near 33rdth Avenue and Indian School Road in West Phoenix. In 2002, the club moved to Tempe to a location that was formerly occupied by another country-themed nightspot owned by Graham Central Station.
Gearhart says that while Graham Central Station had a loyal fanbase of customers, they weren't enough to sustain things at the club.
"We love Phoenix because we've been here 30-plus years and we love all our customer who have come in over the years," he says. "We fought to keep things going, but eventually we had to do what we had to do."
Graham Brothers Entertainment, which operates more than a dozen similar country nightclubs and honky-tonks across the southwestern U.S., also runs the cowboy-friendly bar and dancehall Denim & Diamonds in Mesa. Gearhart says there are no plans to close that particular cowboy bar, as business "has been going good there."
He also states that Graham Brothers may eventuall reopen Graham Central at another location in the Valley "when the time is right."
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In the meantime, hundreds of diehard Graham Central Station patrons past and present recently launched an online memorial and fan page for the the bygone Tempe club on Facebook entitled "R.I.P. Graham's Central Station."
One GCS regular named Shelly Sharp summed up her feelings about the club quite succinctly.
"I can't believe it :( I met my now fiance at Graham's and we had our first date there a little over 5 years ago. Now a little piece of my own personal history is gone!"