LAUREL HILL – Mamie’s Drive Inn has a clientele that comes from far and wide.
“We stop every time we come through here. We’re sad if it’s closed when we come.” said Sandra Caddell of Charlotte who dropped by with her husband Shea Fadel.
The roadside café — known for its burgers — has been in business in one fashion or another since the 1960s became an official member of the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
Current owner Shelia Smith was unsure if she wanted to run a restaurant. She knew the place was special to her, but she failed to realize just how special until after she had been running it for a while.
She had been a Mamie’s regular since she was 14. Smith would walk from her job at Rick’s Outlet to Mamie’s for lunch. Then owner, Mamie Hyatt would fix a salad just for Smith.
“I had not planned on it. I don’t cook, but my ex-husband liked the idea, and we bought it,” Smith said. “After a while it grew on me. I learned to cook and to make the homemade chili and slaw, and we grew from there.”
She must have gotten the recipes right. Since she took over in 2009, Mamie’s has been featured in Our State Magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 best places to eat in North Carolina and on WRAL’s Tarheel Traveler.
Smith has even purchased the landmark building.
The owner of the four properties at the corner of Morgan Street and US 74 wanted to sell the buildings in one lot.
“I said well what are we going to do? We can’t let Mamie’s close, so I prayed about it,” Smith said. “He came back, and I said would you sell me the building because Mamie’s can’t close.”
The owner talked to his wife, prayed about it and returned to Smith with his answer. He agreed to sell the building to her. Smith raised half the money up front and the owner financed the rest.
Another idea that grew on Smith was joining the chamber. Executive Director Chris English has known the Smiths for years and reached out to them with the idea.
“I was thinking about it and I said, ‘I need to do something in Laurinburg; we’re a part of Laurinburg too even though we’re in Laurel Hill. But it seems like [Laurinburg] forgets about us sometimes,” Smith said of English’s proposal.
Friday’s chamber “grand reopening included a ribbon cutting and officials speaking well of the establishment and owners.
“I coached Lauren … she has a big heart and strong will. I knew she would put her heart into this and make it succeed. I knew that they were onto something good when they bought the business,” said English. “It’s such a landmark for Scotland County it didn’t seem right that they weren’t part of the chamber.”
Lauren Smith told the assembled crowd that there had been times when she felt like “folding her arms and packing it in” but she believes that she and her mother are at Mamie’s by God’s grace to be able to reach out to people and impact lives.
The Smith’s had t-shirts made to celebrate to eatery’s history, handed out door prizes and hosted a hot dog eating contest.
Four contestants were given 10 minutes to eat a basket of 25 hot dogs. The two adults in the contest Jerry Easterling and Beth Locklear gave up long before the kids, but after eight minutes even 10- year-old Noah Kee threw in the towel. The winner, 14 year-old Aaliyah Jacobs, lasted the full 10 minutes and was able to finish nine hot dogs.
Aliyah walked away with a $25 Mamie’s gift certificate and a gift basket.
This was not the Aliyah’s first Mamie’s challenge. She was the first girl and the first child to take on the Two-Pound Challenge. Diners are given a two-pound hamburger to complete. Jacobs finished hers in 11 minutes in 2016.
That was the reason she entered the hot dog eating contest.
“I thought I could do it and I did,” she said of the Two-Pound Challenge. “I know I can do this, and I know I can beat the other people in it.”
The restaurant began as Carl’s Drive In in the 1960s and was run by Carl Simpson. There was no dining area in the early days, only drive through service. Mamie Hyatt and Betty Stubbs worked for Simpson.
Hyatt later took over the business, and Stubbs continued to help her run it. Hyatt passed away in October 2009, and Smith thought it only appropriate to leave the name as a tribute to Hyatt’s work and legend.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169