Few things are more boring than suburbs. Wine bars, German SUVs, closed doors behind huge lawns with nobody on the lawn drinking beer and cooking burgers. Fort Mill, one of the fastest-growing places in South Carolina, is first in line.
Houses fly up, some so big they should have moats. People race to buy them. Even though the mortgage payment hanging over a head every month on a $400,000 house would cause a coronary every night for a working stiff. Still, people move in and close the door and never look out.
Fort Mill closes when people get home from work.
I know. I live in Fort Mill. Nothing happens here. Ever. I am a hostage.
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A hostage whose captors hope walks out and never comes back.
People pressure-washing their house – or having somebody do it – is considered juicy neighborhood gossip. There are covenants about fences, fence sizes, fence colors, door colors, shutter colors, siding color, grass height. Rules against loud music. I once had my old car stickered to be towed when someone with the neighborhood association thought – because the car was not new like all the rest – that it must be broken down. I drove that car to cover stories for years.
People live in Fort Mill for all those reasons. Almost no crime, good schools, more house for the money, and lower taxes than Charlotte, a stone’s throw away. It is safe and a great place to raise kids and is so boring that anybody who wants to laugh or drink coffee with a trucker or eat smothered and covered hash browns at 2 a.m. has to go somewhere else to do it.
Fort Mill has wine bars and cupcakes that cost as much as steaks, and running clubs and bicycling clubs – but no 24-hour coffee shop where the burly and the buzzed can eat side by side at the counter watching the sun rise until sated.
But that comes to an end next month. There is light coming. It is yellow, with black letters and bricks, beaming from a sign that reads: “Waffle House.”
Waffle House is coming to Fort Mill.
A new Waffle House is under construction at the corner of U.S. 21 and Regent Parkway.
Fort Mill – once home to textile mills and Southern and tough and hard, but now a bedroom community of the middle class – becomes a real Southern place again. You don’t have Waffle House, you might as well be in Maine.
The first Waffle House opened in Georgia in 1955, and today its 1,650-plus locations never close. You can get smothered and covered hash browns and waffles and eggs and coffee served in a real ceramic cup by a real waitress with a name tag any time – even Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving. Daytime at Waffle House is a mirror of life; 3 a.m. at Waffle House is the crossroads of the night and of all cultures that rarely are seen – and almost never together.
Waffle House is country and hip-hop at the same time. There is always a jukebox at Waffle House.
The Fort Mill Waffle House is expected to open next month. Fort Mill joins Lake Wylie, Rock Hill and York in York County; Richburg in Chester County; and Lancaster in Lancaster County with a Waffle House. Those places are real. Places without Waffle House, well they ain’t.
Fort Mill will finally get real.