For the first time since it opened the doors for business in 1936, Penny’s Place Restaurant in Mint Hill will no longer be in the Mullis family.
Billy Kiser, 63, son-in-law of restaurant founder Penny Mullis, will hang up his apron for the last time Dec. 15. He recently sold the restaurant to Jay Woods, a Matthews businessman who hopes to open the doors at 6 a.m. the next morning.
Woods says he doesn’t plan to change a thing, but talking to some regulars, they say he has some long history to honor and some big shoes to fill.
Tom Flowe, 77, remembers when he was young and his mother would pile the kids in the car and bring them to Penny’s Place and blow the horn for curb service.
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“They would bring the food out to us,” said Flowe. “Women didn’t come in here in those days.”
Flowe marvels at the camaraderie and connections found there.
“I can be gone a month and come and in here, and by the time I get to my table, I know all the news that’s happened since I left,” said Flowe.
Twenty-year Penny’s Place patron, Frank Connell, had back surgery recently, and was in Clear Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for three weeks.
“They brought me sandwiches from here every day,” said Connell.
Flowe says most folks don’t realize how many people Kiser has fed over the years who can’t get out and about.
When asked about his charitable endeavors, Kiser just shrugs his shoulders and deflects the praise.
“It doesn’t cost me a whole lot to do, and it helps a lot of people out,” said Kiser.
Plaques on the walls attest to his help with the VFW, the Lion’s Club, the Agape House, and others non-profits. He has a knack for caring for others, and he misses those that are no longer around.
“I’ve seen a bunch of the dearest friends I could ever have pass away in the last ten years. That’s probably been one of the hardest things – to look out and see where customers used to sit and they aren’t there any more,” said Kiser.
He says he’s been thinking about retiring for a while now, ready for a break from his 3:30 a.m. six days a week wakeup time.
Kiser plans to travel with his wife, Shirley, who will also get a break, as, for the past 25 years, she has made Penny’s Place famous chili from the original family recipe. He also plans to work on his classic cars, several of which, he says, need some TLC.
And, most likely, he will go back to Penny’s Place and spend some time with friends, only this time in front of the counter instead of behind it.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: email@example.com.