A long-standing Fayetteville institution has closed its doors, maybe permanently.
Melear’s Barbecue, a fixture in the community for more than 50 years, served its last customers Saturday. Ever since the restaurant’s gravel parking lot has been empty, its famous pig statue has been lonely, and another slice of Fayette history is practically gone with the wind.
Melear’s was one of the necessary stops for any aspiring local politician seeking office. The early morning “Coffee Club” was a group of local residents who chatted about politics, local government and all the comings and goings of the community.
But longtime Coffee Club member Harvey Griffin said there wasn’t any gossiping.
“The guys were pretty serious about talking things out, but you had to listen to each one because he’s got to listen to you too,” Griffin said.
You could spot them pretty easy, Griffin said, as they troll for “what they can pick up on so they can get some more votes.”
“You can tell when they walk in good and they’ve got that funny smile, like they really want to help the county or state. But you and I know it’s for the perks and what they can do for themselves. I’d tell them that sometimes too!”
It was a necessary stop for politicians, as the Coffee Club took local elections seriously, with participants sharing why they will vote for someone, what their qualifications were, and so on, Griffin said.
Over the years the Coffee Club has had judges, lawyers, current and ex-county commissioners and “regular folk” too, Griffin said.
“We just drink coffee for a couple or three hours and jaw,” Griffin said.
Griffin said Melear’s has been operating for about 52 years, but recently business had been slower. The store’s closing most likely means the last of the Coffee Club’s meetings has convened, he added.
County Historian Carolyn Cary used to be one of the Coffee Club regulars, and she said it made her son David very proud.
“I was the only female allowed to sit at the ‘good old boys’ table at Melear’s,” Cary recalled. “That was his proudest bragging of me.”
In addition to hosting civic club meetings, the restaurant also hosted meetings of the local bar association and other groups.
In a column reminiscing about Melear’s on page C2 of today’s paper, Cary recalled the community spirit of restaurant owner Kenny Melear, who would show up at the scene of fires with coffee and soft drinks for firefighters, or the many times he provided warm biscuits and pots of coffee for poll workers, until the county grew to the point where the number of poll sites made it impossible.
Melear was unavailable for an interview by press time Tuesday.