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Long lines await the reopening of milestone Southport restaurant

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 10:43 PM EDT
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SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - People were lining up an hour before the Wildlife Restaurant & Grill in Southport reopened Wednesday to the delight of restaurant owner Mary Price.

“I never thought it would come to this,” said Price.

There are worse things than sweating over a hot grill and Mary Price will tell you one of them is sitting home on her butt.

”My son and my grandson are constantly saying, ‘Nana, get outta there,’” said Price. “I don’t do soap operas, I’m not a big TV fanatic, so what’s left? Go to work.”

Today’s the first day back for her restaurant which was shuttered for six weeks because she couldn’t find the help she needed to keep the place open.

It’ll be back to normal business hours, Wednesday through Saturday.

Today’s soft opening was anything but soft.

According to the sign, the doors were supposed to open at 11, but people were already lining up at 10. Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are the biggest sellers.

Glen Hunter, a 60-year-old construction worker, used to work with Mary, many restaurants ago, when he got his first job at the age of 15.

“It was 1976, I worked in a restaurant with her,” said Hunter.

Now, it’s his first day back with his old boss from a lifetime ago.

“I just see that ad on Facebook where she was closed down and needed a cook,” said Hunter. “I love to cook, so I thought I’d come over here and talk to her. I talked to her and in 30 minutes I had a job.”

And this re-opening has come just in time — July 4th is a milestone for the Wildlife Restaurant and Grill.

It opened its doors on that day, back in 1996. That’s 25 years for the business.

Jill Ward was there then and she’s here today. The menu of food and fellowship has been a mainstay for the last quarter century. She’ll tell you it’s been the blink of an eye.

“I was kinda surprised to realize it’s flown by, so I was like, ‘Are you kidding me — I can’t believe it’s been 25 years,’” said Ward. “Hey, Mary. Can I get a hamburger and french fries?”

There was no time to celebrate this morning, it was all about getting it done. But again, Mary will tell you there are worse things than slaving over a hot grill.

“I’ve got some good customers — they keep coming back, day after day, week after week.”

With 25 years down, there’s hope for 25 more to go!

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