The trucker with the tattoos on his forearms pulled up to the empty lot on Cherry Road on Tuesday and could not believe his eyes: the Waffle House had disappeared.
Besides the construction equipment, all that’s left is the kitchen sink.
Literally – one of those big, stainless-steel, three-basin sinks used at beach piers for cleaning fish. Tipped on its side, pipes askew.
No scattered. No smothered. No covered. No scattered, smothered and covered. No shift workers throwing back coffee like English coal miners on a bender. This is not a loss, this is the Cuban Missile Crisis of breakfast.
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No counter spot at 2 a.m. for a smiling guy who had a few too many drinks, calling out how he wanted to be smothered and soon or he would starve to death. No waitress telling him, “Sugar, just set down there and be quiet like a good fella and don’t cause no ruckus.”
Not even a dirty dish in sight. No cooks with spatulas big as bazookas working six, eight orders at a time. No waitresses caroming around the place at breakneck speed, balancing plates and coffee and smiling for the tips that raise a family and come 24 hours a day, every day.
The Waffle House is gone.
Is Rock Hill – tough and gritty, hard as pig iron – going soft?
The truck rolled on from the empty lot, the driver using words that cannot be printed in a family publication. Others stopped at the gas station next door, wondering what happened to their lives.
The Waffle House is not just a restaurant. For many, it is home, community and Southern. One woman, as she got back in her car, said, “They took my Waffle House!”
But fear not, you who love your hash browns scattered, smothered and covered – or scattered, smothered and chunked – because the breakfast joint that has served Rock Hill and highway hungry for almost four decades will be rebuilt.
A new Waffle House on the same spot, at 2552 Cherry Road, just a few hundred feet from Interstate 77, its signature smell a beacon of welcome, will open after Labor Day. It will look like newer Waffle Houses being built from Arizona to the Atlantic Ocean, Ohio to the Gulf of Mexico.
“It is still going to be a Waffle House, just a new Waffle House,” said Jeff Story, construction manager for the project who was working at the site Tuesday.
Employees at the Cherry Road Waffle House have been reassigned to other locations nearby and will come back when the new restaurant re-opens.
Next week, foundations will be poured, bricks will begin to be laid. Until completion, the hungry can still go to other Waffle House Rock Hill locations on Herlong Avenue and Anderson Road.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org