Catfish Hole heads north, opens on Table Rock Lake near Branson

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,597 views 

One of Northwest Arkansas’ iconic restaurants has taken its brand to a new market.

Catfish Hole, a family-owned business which operates in Fayetteville and Alma, opened a third location June 1 in Kimberling City, Mo., on Table Rock Lake. The business signed a one-year lease to occupy space previously occupied by The Rocks Lakeside Grill & Lounge.

Catfish Hole is owned by Janie Gazzola, widow of the late Pat Gazzola, who died last August at Willard Walker Hospice Home in Fayetteville. He was 68. The Gazzolas bought the original Catfish Hole on U.S. Highway 71 just north of Alma in 1993. The following year, they built a second location on Wedington Road west of Interstate 49 in Fayetteville, less than 5 miles from the University of Arkansas campus.

Britain White of Bentonville, the Gazzolas’ son, said the Missouri restaurant is a partnership between him and his mom. White’s daughter, Natalie White, graduated from the UA in May and is also getting involved in the business on a day-to-day basis.

“She wanted to get in to the business, and we’re treating this [restaurant] as sort of her baby to cut her teeth on,” Britain White said. “A lot of people really thought when Pat [died] that mom would just sell the business and move on down the road and retire. And we’re not doing that. We’re taking it head on, and we’re going to try and grow.”

White’s full-time job is vice president of sales for minuteKEY Inc., which makes self-service, key duplication kiosks. But he has gotten more involved in the family business the past four years and is excited about Catfish Hole’s future.

That still includes a possible location in Bentonville. The Gazzolas bought some land in December 2010 on Winsted Lane in Bentonville, and the family still owns the property.

“We’ve still got our eyes on the prize in Bentonville,” Britain White said.

White said opening the Table Rock Lake location has been a learning experience, primarily because it’s a seasonal business built on lake tourism. It’s also unique from other Catfish Hole locations in that live music is part of the setting.

“We’re used to turning tables so fast,” he said. “But in this environment, you’re on lake time. No one is in a hurry to do anything. People are trying to relax, they want to eat and hang out for a while. It’s almost like a sports bar-slash-Catfish Hole venue.”

White said the three restaurants combined now have about 100 employees.