SURF CITY, NC (WECT) - It was warm and clear in Surf City on Wednesday afternoon so there was plenty of activity on the beach and the Surf City Pier.
Walking or driving down Roland Avenue and crossing South Shore Drive, another spot was bustling for the first since time since Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018.
The parking lot at Buddy’s Crab House and Oyster Bar was full, and even though a couple of workers were putting the finishing touches on the restaurant’s facade, owner Matt Wiles said the kitchen and bar are up and running, evidenced by a busy reopening day Wednesday.
“It feels amazing to be open,” Wiles said while taking a brief break on the restaurant’s rebuilt oceanfront deck. “We’ve been working on this for a lot of months.”
“I’m just glad to have everybody coming in and checking out the new deck and the view and the food. I’m just ready to go back to work and ready for people to come back on the island after the storm and get back to normal.”
Wiles’ father, Buddy, first opened the restaurant more than 20 years ago, and Matt took over after Buddy died in June 2016.
Buddy’s memory is alive and well in more than just the name of the place. A Buddy’s Way sign is nailed to the stairs leading up to the deck, and there are photos of Buddy on the walls and underneath the clear cover on the bar outdoors.
Keeping that connection to the past was part of Wiles’ rebuilding plan but making the restaurant functional again was job 1, and it has been quite a job.
Florence caused a partial roof collapse that destroyed the kitchen and storm surge wrecked the outside seating area and upstairs deck.
As he stood on the deck Wednesday, Wiles looked around and said, “All this is fresh and new and better than ever.”
One of the many locals at Buddy's for re-opening day agreed.
“New and improved are the key words,” Rick Roberson said. “It’s just so much nicer. The lighting, everything is so much better than what it was. Not that it was bad before but it’s such an improvement and I’m so happy for them that they could make those improvements.”
"We have missed this place since the hurricane."
While admitting there was a feeling of “organized chaos” on his first full day back on the job, Wiles said seeing some familiar faces helped alleviate the pressure of a busy day.
“Everybody who said they were coming in today, they’re here, and it’s great to see them,” Wiles said. “I haven’t seen some of them in a long time.”
For more information on Buddy’s Crab House and Oyster Bar, click here.