Vernon's Reopens Ahead of Schedule

By: Ruben Borjas, Jr., Columnist, Montgomery County News
| Published 05/29/2024


CONROE, TX -- In a feat unequaled in Montgomery County history, a major restaurant that was flooded out early in a month, has been reopened in working order looking no worse for wear before the end of the same month. Actually, it was a day over three weeks out of action. Vernon’s Kuntry Katfish, located at 5901 W Davis, in Conroe. was flooded with approximately 17 inches of water throughout the restaurant on May 2nd. A ‘rain bomb,’ an extreme amount of rain that fell in Lake Conroe’s watershed in a short period of time, caused the forced release of water from the Lake Conroe Dam overwhelming the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. The flooding affected the low-lying woods, and approached the catfish restaurant from the backside of the property. It was the second time Vernon’s had flooded since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Kuntry Katfish, which had anticipated opening last Saturday the 25th, announced earlier that week that the repairs were happening much faster than anticipated. That prompted the restaurant's Facebook post on May 20th that the restaurant would be open for business for the Friday lunch service.

People were excited to be back, seated, and having the proven Southern staples that have been drawing Vernon’s Kuntry Katfish customers back time and time again for decades. Restaurant contractor Blaze Benzon, President of Cowl Spur Development, said that the damage was not as bad as the 2017 flood event, which kept the restaurant under repair for months, with cooking taking place out in the parking lot. Benson’s crew was in the restaurant demoing the restaurant even before the waters had completely receded from the parking lot.

“I’m thrilled at how they got up and running so fast,“ said restaurant patron Cathy George, who was having lunch with her husband Juan. “We eat here pretty regularly, and were sad about the flooding.”

The Bowers have seen good and bad times since the family opened the restaurant in 1984. From the passing of Vernon Bowers in 2001, to Hurricane Harvey, to the unexpected passing of Buster Bowers in 2019, Ms. Mary, her daughter Debbie, who now runs the restaurant. They all have persevered through all the difficult experiences, and many good times as well, which makes for a successful restaurant.

“I’m just really happy that we were able to open so quickly,” said Mary Bowers. “I can’t thank Blaze Benson, and his company for getting us up and running so fast.”

Benson and Buster Bowers were best friends growing up, and in many ways is kin to the Bowers Family, and his experience in getting the restaurant back up and running in 2017 was instrumental in the quick turnaround this time.

“The floors look the same, the walls look the same,” said Fort Worth resident Jean Grayson, a previous customer visiting with her nearby family. “If I hadn’t walked in here today, I wouldn’t have known it had flooded at all.”

Customers happily waited for their to-go orders or to be seated in Vernon’s foyer, where just a few weeks earlier boards had been piled against the walls stripped of insulation drying out from the devastating flood waters earlier in the month.

“We were sad to see the restaurant damaged from the flooding,” said customer Edna Jackson, seated with her husband Jeff, who both frequent Vernon’s. “We are big fans of the catfish.”

One major concern for the restaurant is the potential for future flooding along the West Fork of the San Jacinto flooding. With the growth of Montgomery County, less land is available for water to soak into during heavy weather events, and areas once thought safe from flooding are now vulnerable. The San Jacinto River Authority has protocols it must follow which governs release of water from the Lake Conroe Dam, And with Lake Houston’s spillway, which is old and has only two gates a fraction of the size of Conroe’s dam, the planned eleven gate construction can’t come soon enough. Once the project is completed, then perhaps procedures can be adjusted for coordinated releases to prevent major flooding in Montgomery, Harris, Polk, and Liberty counties.

“I’ve missed Vernon’s this month,“ said restaurant patron Larry Corley, visiting with his friend, Conroe High School Head Football Coach Cedric Hardeman. “Now I don’t have to wake up in the morning, and wonder where to go for lunch.”

Vernon’s Kuntry Katfish website is:

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