The rain fell Tuesday morning just after the sun rose and still there was joy and smiles and a potato chip truck barreling into the parking lot as the lights came on at a place where the lights will not go off for at least the next 40 years.
Waffle House is back.
There were balloons, even. And waffles.
“Rafael Gonzalez!” said the Utz potato chip truck driver, who was the very first customer at the new rebuilt location that replaced the old store that was demolished.
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The spot at 2552 North Cherry Road just south of Exit 82 of Interstate 77 was Rock Hill’s first location for Waffle House decades ago and was part of the city’s life ever since. Old men drank coffee there, college kids drank beer and then ate there, and everybody in between ate there.
There are other Waffle Houses now, but this place was always the beacon, the light. Until June, when the old building that had finally broken down had to be torn down. A shiny new Waffle House now takes its place.
Everything is new - even the waffle irons lined up in two rows just like Kentucky Derby hopefuls ready for their historic rides.
And Waffle House, a southern staple, 24 hours a day, never closes. Ever.
“It is amazing when you think that we opened just a few minutes ago and we won’t ever be closed again for 30, 35, 40 years,” said David Watson, area manager for Waffle House who was among many managers and staffers from cooks down to the dishwashers on hand for the opening.
The doors were opened at 7 a.m. and in came Gonzalez the driver and a guy named Al and others. Waitress Kim Mangum, two decades working at the store until it closed, then three months banished 10 miles away to Pineville, N.C. until construction was complete, poured the first cup of coffee in the classic porcelain Waffle House cup.
“Glad to be home,” Mangum said.
And yes, before the first half-hour was over, there were orders of waffles and the famous scattered and smothered and covered hash browns.
A brand-new big juke box played a country tune. Dishes clattered. The new place gleamed and shone from all the polish and just the newness. Even those little steel frying pans that cook the over-easy eggs sparkled under the new lights.
Orders were called out. People came in and the staff greeted them with a smile.
And finally, the wait was over. The Waffle House that started it all in Rock Hill and York County is back.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065