Usually, a certain retail chain — the name of which begins with “W” — owns bragging rights for the largest customer traffic of any business along Mount Airy’s U.S. 601 corridor.
However, the new Cracker Barrel Old Country Store seems to have taken over that spot, at least in the first couple of days since opening on Monday.
Even before that happened at 6 a.m. that day, about 60 customers already were lined up along the front porch of the business at 1948 Rockford St. waiting for the staff to arrive.
And the trend has continued since, according to a local Cracker Barrel official.
Final figures from Monday revealed about 1,500 guests for the first day of operation at the 40th outlet to be located in North Carolina by the Tennessee-based chain. Before the opening here, the next-closest Cracker Barrel was in Jonesville.
“Yesterday we exceeded our expectations in both restaurant and retail,” Drew Barlow, the retail manager of the local Cracker Barrel, said Tuesday evening. The early attendance figures not only surpassed management predictions, but “actually blew them away,” Barlow added, saying the numbers have been “beyond anything we could have dreamed.”
“Our dinner traffic is huge here, so our evening traffic was massive yesterday (Monday),” the local Cracker Barrel spokesman said.
“So far today we are already at a thousand,” Barlow said shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, “so we’re actually on par to do what we did yesterday.”
As evidence of that, empty parking spaces were hard to find in the Cracker Barrel lot later Tuesday evening, around 6:30.
“We really haven’t had a lull since we opened,” Barlow said. “We exceeded our expectations and plans — they just got kind of blown out.”
The 10,000-square-foot facility can seat 180 customers at a time.
Barlow said the “great turnout” has posed a challenge for the staff at Cracker Barrel, which includes about 200 full- and part-time employees. But they apparently have met the task with flying colors.
“Their training by corporate trainers really has showed through,” Barlow said of extensive preparations for the staff, which included serving a crowd of invited guests last Friday as a preliminary for Monday’s official opening.
“It’s been very smooth.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.