BUFFALO - Wade's is part restaurant, part museum and a little nostalgia all put together.
Ronnie Wade and Genia Smith have opened the restaurant in the former Griffith's Grocery building on Main Street, Buffalo. The building was extensively renovated to reflect a 1950s theme with neon lights, a juke box and murals.
Wade, Union County Airport and Stadium manager for 36 years, said the restaurant is the result of an interest he has had for a long time.
“When I was in high school, my family had the Dairy Barn,” he said. “I did this all through high school and I decided it was getting later in my career and was something I wanted to do in life after I retired.”
J.R. Griffith opened the original restaurant in the building and three generations of his family operated a business there. Wade said the Griffith family has contributed photographs and other keepsakes to add to the restaurant's decor, including photos of Griffith, his son, Bill, and granddaughter Carol McGlockin and Michael Johnson, who operated businesses there over the years.
An early photo shows Griffith at a coffee pot behind the sandwich counter. A receipt contributed by the family shows where Griffith purchased 10 cases of Pepsi in 1934 for $11.90.
One corner is dedicated to the Wade family and their business ventures, starting with Ronnie's grandfather, Frank, who operated a grocery and market in Ottaray; Wade's booth at the fair and C.D.'s Downtown, another family restaurant.
Pacolet artist Debra Glidden painted the 1950s mural on the wall, featuring a pony-tailed girl in a poodle skirt and a pink Cadillac.
Refurbished red and white Coca-Cola booths line one wall.
Three antique clocks were put together to make one working neon version, Ms. Smith said.
“And we try to keep the music going all the time for ambiance,” Ms. Smith said.
Picture books put together by Billy Beheler are on display, including one on Union County dirt track racing and another on Buffalo. He also donated a runner from the tower stairs of Buffalo Cotton Mill.
On a display shelf in the dining room are a shuttle stick and bobbin from the mill, a speaker from the Sunset Drive-In, cartons from Edisto Milk - for which the Wade Family once held the franchise - the old oak flagpole top from county stadium made by Union High School shop teacher the late Ross Corn and a set of “loonies” from the mill.
A large Buffalo nickel which was given to veterans returning home to Buffalo after World War II was donated by Gail Hyatt
Vintage signs also decorate the restaurant.
The restaurant serves a variety of sandwiches. Plates include a hamburger steak, rib eye steak, chicken strips, chicken livers, grilled chicken breast, grilled pork chop, a barbecue plate, cold plate and flounder.
Side items and appetizers also are offered, along with salads. The restaurant has a children's combination which includes a sandwich or hot dog with fries and drink.
A favorite with customers has been the “Bird Dog.” That's two chicken strips with bacon, ranch dressing and Swiss cheese on a hoagie roll. The philly chicken and philly steak sandwiches also are popular.
Eight hand-dipped flavors of ice cream are available, along with sundaes, banana splits, cobblers and hot fudge cakes.
Phyllis Haney said she and her husband, Joe of Buffalo enjoy eating at Wade's.
“We love to eat there because Joe reminisces, that was his hangout when he was a teen-ager,” she said. “We love the food. We love looking at everything on the wall. It brings back a lot of memories for me - we just think it's a cool place to be.”
Mrs. Haney said her husband enjoys the hamburger steak. She loves the chicken and apple crunch salad and the “bird dog.” They both like the philly cheese steak sandwich.
Susie and Bryan Gruver of Union also like dining at Wade's.
“The food is delicious and the atmosphere is wonderful,” Ms. Gruver said. “They have ‘50s and ‘60s music and that really brings back a lot of memories for us. And everybody is just so friendly.”
Mike Benson of Union eats at the restaurant with his wife, Della, and their entire family.
“We enjoy the atmosphere and the food is terrific,” Benson said. “We enjoy the people and Ronnie is always good to us. We try something different every time we go, but we love the apple crunch salad with their special dressing. We also get the hamburger steak-everything is good.”
(The restaurant is open Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Wade said Wednesday will be added as a business day on Feb. 1 and the eventual goal is to be open Monday through Saturday.)