FUQUAY-VARINA (WNCN) – Generations of families have shared meals at Campbell’s Diner in Fuquay-Varina, but the restaurant will serve its final home-cooked meals on Saturday. It’s closing the doors after 45 years.
Dora Campbell started the restaurant in 1971 and ran it in a trailer in the country. A few years later, in 1974, she had it hauled to its current location on North Main Street in downtown.
The trailer was added onto over the years and began showing its age. With the condition of her restaurant deteriorating, Campbell decided to call it quits.
“Honey, I’d have to tear it down and start over,” she said.
Some of her regular customers offered to help save the restaurant, including Gerald Currin, a general contractor who dined at the restaurant one to two times a week for 30 years. But Campbell wasn’t interested.
“I just think Mrs. Campbell was tired. She was just ready to say, ‘OK, it’s time.’ There comes a time for everything,” Currin said.
Campbell says she wasn’t asking for money. Since she announced the closing, customers have asked to buy parts of the restaurant to keep as mementos, but Campbell calls it junk.
“Honey, it’s old and it’s worn out,” she said.
Campbell says she probably should have built a restaurant instead of adding on to her trailer, but she never thought it would last.
“I didn’t want to work all my life, (but) ended up doing it,” she said.
Waitress Audrey Smele, 84, has been by Campbell’s side for 45 years.
“I said the only way I would quit working here is if they close up, so that’s what I’m doing,” Smele said.
“I have had customers that have had babies,and the babies have had babies, and I’ve watched them all grow up,” Smele added. “We have the best customers in the world. They all love us and we love them. Some of them get tears in their eyes and they’re just sort of pitiful. I feel sorry for them, and I feel sorry for me, too.”
Although the restaurant served “just plain old home-cooking,” Campbell says she knows it meant something to her longtime customers and employees.
“Lawd, honey, they‘ve cried,” she said. “It’s going to be sad. I’ll probably cry. I haven’t cried yet. It’s not real yet – it hasn’t sunk in yet. That’s the reason everybody’s been so upset because they know this is the end of an era. When we’re gone, it’s gone.”