It’s not every day that a new Cracker Barrel comes to town, and Mount Airy made the most of the occasion Friday when a ribbon cutting was held at the restaurant on Rockford Street.
Though the business won’t officially open to the public until Monday, Friday morning’s gathering was a preview event that allowed about 150 business and community leaders to sample Cracker Barrel’s breakfast fare.
The two large dining rooms of the 10,000-square-foot establishment were nearly filled with the guests and a small army of restaurant employees who took advantage of those folks’ presence to sharpen their cooking and serving skills for Monday.
Those seated at the tables enjoyed free sampler platters — munching country ham, bacon, eggs, biscuits, grits and other breakfast favorites.
Yet the most appetizing thing Friday seemed to be the presence of the new restaurant itself.
“After being at Cracker Barrels over the years at many locations, it’s great to finally have one here,” Steve Yokeley, Mount Airy’s interim mayor, said during a short program inside one of the dining rooms in front of its trademark fireplace.
“We are thankful to have Cracker Barrel here in Mount Airy,” Yokeley added, saying he was glad to have the city picked as the site for the 40th Cracker Barrel in North Carolina.
It is nice to have a restaurant that is known for its good food and quality control, Yokeley pointed out. But “we are most happy about the 200 jobs you are bringing,” he said regarding the new full- and part-time positions involved. That remark drew vigorous applause from the audience.
“A Perfect Fit”
Cracker Barrel officials who spoke were equally enthused about the new restaurant, which is joining more than 630 outlets in the restaurant chain overall.
“Mount Airy and Cracker Barrel are actually a perfect fit,” General Manager Brian Murphy said.
Murphy cited the rural nature of this area and how it conforms to the restaurant chain’s old-time general store theme that includes original pieces of Americana and genuine artifacts on display.
“Mount Airy is a Cracker Barrel community,” agreed Andrew Barlow, manager of the restaurant’s retail store component.
There was general agreement Friday that the coming of Cracker Barrel here was long-overdue.
That decision capped a long, complicated process, according to District Manager Steve Smart.
“There’s a handful of communities where you look at it and just say, ‘Cracker Barrel needs to be here’ — and this is one of them,” Smart said.
The restaurant staff also planned to offer lunch to invited guests Friday, Yokeley said he was told, and was expecting to serve about 600 people in all.
“We’re going to work a little bit this weekend to get ready (for Monday’s opening),” Murphy said, “because we know we’re going to be busy.” Cracker Barrel serves an average of 1,000 guests a day among its 636 stores in 42 states.
Included among Friday’s gathering were other city government officials in addition to Yokeley; Surry County leaders; representatives of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, Surry Arts Council and Surry County Economic Development Partnership; local school systems; and a wide array of other community and business leaders.
“We’ll be seeing a lot of you,” Yokeley advised the restaurant personnel.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.