Well wishes and congratulations accompanied Leon’s Burger Express owners Paul and Vickie Riekehof as their packed diner celebrated it’s 25th anniversary Friday afternoon.
City Commissioner Steve Yokeley and Mayor Deborah Cochran were also on hand to congratulate the couple and present them with a proclamation honoring their service to the community.
Cochran said the two looked a little different than they did the opening day of the eater, and alluded to Vickie Riekehof being pregnant with her son, Phillip, at that occasion. Riekehof said she delivered him the next day. She said the two know “85 percent” of their customers by name and can often tell what they will order before they take a seat.
“Mount Airy has been excellent. It’s been a lot of fun for us,” said Paul Riekehof.
The two explained they originally came to the area from New Jersey when given an opportunity by Vickie’s father, Leon, to give the restaurant business a try. Paul said Leon had moved to the area upon retirement and later decided to open a restaurant. They said the burger express had been located on Route 601 for two and a half years before moving to its present location.
Paul, who originally trained as a machinist, said they opened the business with close to the same menu they offer now, but have added, subtracted and improved a few items. Initially, the restaurant was open nights as well but couldn’t maintain the labor for that and decided to try its current daytime hours. Vickie jokes about having to learn how to talk when she first came to the area and said family up north now say they both have a North Carolina accent.
He said he first told Leon he would try the business out for six months and in a short time gave his boss in New Jersey a six month notice. Riekehof said his boss didn’t take him seriously “because no one gives a six month notice.” He said his tune changed the day he drove past their house and saw the moving van.
“I have learned a lot from living here,” said Paul Riekehof. “When I lived up there I thought bees were only in trees and not in the ground.” Members of the Riekehof family, including 14 month old grandson Robby Snyder, his mother Lee Ann and Phillip Riekehof were also in attendance to mark the anniversary. Lee Ann Snyder is a teacher at East Forsyth and Phillip Riekehof teaches at Flat Rock Elementary.
David Broyles may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.