If you wander down I77 to NC89 and take it east a few miles, you end up in Mount Airy, NC. Most people have heard of Mount Airy, the inspiration for the Andy Griffith show. Lots of folks have heard of Snappy Lunch, which was made famous by Andy's show. You can read more about Snappy's in my post, "The conundrum of Snappy Lunch."
I can call it Andy's show because I spent my the summers of teenage years in Mount Airy cruising Main Street. Rumor has it that my late mother, Blanche, once swatted Andy when he caused some trouble in her beauty shop which she ran for many years on that same Main Street.
Mount Airy once was the home of textile mills and furniture factories. It was a pretty prosperous place. My dad moved there in 1904 and eventually became the Vice President of National Furniture. Pretty well all the factories are gone now. It took us a long time to sell our beautiful family home on West Pine Street after my mother moved in with us in Mount Airy because the area like some places in Southwest Virginia really hasn't recovered from the loss of all the jobs.
Yet there is hope in Mount Airy. Main street Mount Airy is a remarkable testament to the ability of small towns to survive and even thrive. Now things aren't perfect, but the excitement and enthusiasm that you often see in midday is hard to duplicate in many small towns. The tourists have adopted Mount Airy, and it has brought life and customers to the main drag. The downtown is full of small shops, eateries, a museum, a theater. As a recent series in the Roanoke paper indicated, it is also home to some mountain music. You can even visit a shop that is loaded with Vera Bradley bags which is a huge draw if the ladies in our family are a reliable guide to what the female shopping public wants.
We miss our bi-weekly trips to Mount Airy when we were taking care of my mom's place. We could walk up town and have breakfast at either Snappy Lunch or Leon's. We always took the time to walk off our breakfasts by visiting a few shops.
There's an old fashioned hardware store with a couple of the best locksmiths in the business. They also carry spare parts for pressure cookers. They helped me come up with some keys for doors that hadn't been opened in many years.
Then there's Roselli's Bakery just down the street from Leon's. They seem to find lots of NY items to bring south. No the holiday decorations aren't up in August. The Leon's shot was taken last winter.
We make the decision of whether to have breakfast at Leon's or Snappy's by deciding if we want to eat on real plates or not. Snappy lunch only uses Styrofoam ones.
The biscuits are better at Snappy, but pancakes and some other items are better at Leon's. I enjoy Leon's burgers more than I do Snappy's Pork chop sandwich which should be approached with the proper respect since it can do in a pretty hardy appetite. I think my mother secretly believed that she made it to ninety three partially because she had only eaten one Pork chop sandwich in her long life.
While you're walking around, there are plenty of gift shops to visit and lots of places to buy nice prints of Pilot Mountain and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Then for the dads, after they have spent as much time as they can take in the typical ladies' stores, there's Robby's which is a hardware, hunting, fishing, camping, horse, and Army surplus store just at the far end of Main Street. They even have a great selection of cast iron cookware that can be carefully seasoned into a proper cornbread pan.
If you've managed to make it through a whole day, and still have room for more food there are some good choices on the way out of town, there's Odell's Sandwich Shop where you drive up, park, and order your food through one of those classic radios and wait for one of the boys to bring you a Big Moe or a Hot Dog Basket. I have a friend who has Odell's on speed dial so his food is waiting for him when he drives through from Virginia If you want a fancier meal take US52 bypass north from NC89. After you pass the Starlight Drive in, which I'm not certain has survived the new multiplex, and the Mall, you'll see Goobers restaurant on your right. I can highly recommend their fried oyster salad, their gumbo and any of their pasta dishes.
In fact there are enough interesting local eateries in Mount Airy that I might just have to head on back down Fancy Gap and conduct some in depth research. If you really want to see some crowds in Mount Airy, try their Autumn Leaves Festival which is Oct. 14-16 this year.
December 27, 2006
"The holiday season would not be complete for us without a trip to our home turf, Mount Airy, NC. ...."