Sutton's in Chapel Hill marks 90 years

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 06:23 PM

For its offer of hot dogs, fries and drinks for 5 cents each, Sutton’s Drug Store in Chapel Hill had a line of customers on Wednesday that started inside the store and stretched past adjacent Franklin Street storefronts.

The pharmacy and grill offered the deal in celebration of its 90th birthday. Owner and pharmacist John Woodard said that Lynwood and Lucy Sutton started the business in 1923.

It sold in 1964, he said, and then Woodard bought it in 1977, with the understanding that he would leave everything “just like it was.”

“The idea of it was to leave it as it was when Sutton owned it,” he said.

Woodard said that the key to staying afloat on Franklin Street is making sure there’s enough revenue generated while University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students are on-campus to sustain slower times during the summer.

He said he also tries to maintain a visible presence.

Chapel Hill resident Jabari Rasheed, 19, waited in line with his friend and UNC-Chapel Hill freshman, Donny Davenport, 18, to take advantage of the business’ low food prices.

They were first-time Sutton’s customers.

“It’s great for the wallet,” Rasheed said. “When you hear of something like this, you have to take advantage.”

Elsie Murray, a 20-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill senior, and Frank Ferro, a 21-year-old senior at the university, also waited in line at Sutton’s on Wednesday.

They planned to “stuff our faces with hot dogs,” Murray said. She said she goes to Sutton’s a couple times a semester to buy milkshakes and other cheap food.

“It’s kind of a cool atmosphere,” she said of the business. “It reminds me of an old-time (store), if I were to go to Mayberry.”

Tucker Smith of Wilmington came to eat at Sutton’s Wednesday afternoon with his 19-year-old son, Bob, who is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

They waited in line about 45 minutes, Tucker Smith said, just to be a part of the celebration. He said he’s also a cousin of a cousin of Woodard’s.

He said he was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1980 to 1983 before he went to study at the UNC-Wilmington.

“(You) walk in, and it’s 1980 again,” he said of Sutton’s, describing the business as one with many pictures on the wall, friendly people and great food.

“As long as they have that, there will be a Sutton’s,” he said.