A Small Town Staple
By Sarah Headley
Charlotte, N.C. is a bustling city filled with professional sports teams, fine dining and large concert venues. But just an hour away lies the small town of Wadesboro, which saw its glory days many years ago. Now, the remnants of what used to be are town fixtures, fixtures like the Hub Restaurant and its long-time owners Sandy and Dianne Drye.
Sandy Drye slides into a corner booth in one of the Hub’s dining rooms near the restrooms. He’s all smiles as he talks about the new table tops with laminated pictures featuring local businesses and family.
Drye usually doesn’t sit back here, he used to cook on the grill out front before he retired.
“I don’t come here a lot now, because they want me to work every time I come down here,” he laughs.
He’s wearing a t-shirt, burgundy jacket and bright red hat with “Sandy’s Hub” sprawled across the front, his son Scott does most of the cooking now.
“When I was 65 I turned it over to him, because I been here 44 years almost, my legs are about to give out,” Drye says.
Drye is confident he left the business in good hands.
“Both my boys cook more than their wives!”
And for Scott, this isn’t the first well-known community business he’s worked at — he also worked at Merritt’s Store & Grill in Chapel Hill years ago when Phil Ford was the one ordering sandwiches.
Like Merritt’s, The Hub garners attention from locals and those passing through alike. The inconspicuous brown building was built in the 1950s and sits on the left side of Hwy. 74, leaving Charlotte and stretching toward the beach. “The Hub” is written in silver letters and rests on the green tin roof, which recently replaced what was formerly brown shingles.
The restaurant has brown, worn stone floors as you walk in either glass door and consists of three rooms, two of which were added on over the years.
Wood paneling lines the walls with pictures and memorabilia from years past, detailing the evolution of the small town.
The Hub is only open for breakfast and lunch. The Sandy Special — eggs scrambled with sausage and cheese on a bun — is named after its creator and runs $3.50. But the sandwich isn’t as simplistic as you think, says Drye.
“There’s more work in that than just frying a piece of egg and frying a sausage and putting it together you know,” he says. “The way I do it, you cook the sausage, then you grind it up, then you mix it up, and it takes longer, but I think that about three or four months time since I started doing that I doubled my sales.”
And he’s been doing it for quite some time now.
In Wadesboro, The Hub is where people go to socialize and eat what Drye calls soul food. The hot food line’s menu changes daily, featuring items he says you can’t find anywhere else in town, but many patrons enjoy his burgers as well.
Fried chicken and country fried steak are some of the most popular items according to Drye. Wednesday is meatloaf day, Thursday is barbeque day and Friday is fish day, he says. As for vegetables, cabbage, corn and green beans are regular favorites.
“We serve what I call groceries, you can’t go everywhere and get green beans, and mashed potatoes, and black eyed peas and yams.”
He gets food for the restaurant from US Foods or Cysco and buys locally grown produce. Drye also makes a point to buy his sausage locally from places like Rayfield Meat Center, another Wadesboro fixture.
There’s one thing not on the menu though, bubblegum. Drye was known for always having a full stock of bubblegum to give to kids who ate at the restaurant.
Growth Over the Years
The Hub came from humble beginnings. Originally it was an ice cream shop on one side and a hamburger shop on the other. Eventually, a dining room and a kitchen were added by the previous owner.
Drye later added indoor plumbing and another dining room.
He laughs as he recounts a time when a truck accidentally ran into the side wall of the first dining room.
“I had four lawyers sitting at a table, it pushed one of ‘em across the room and I could just see lawsuit after lawsuit,” he says.
While no lawsuits ensued, Drye now jokes about the incident and unofficially named that dining room after the lawyer who “got slid across the floor.”
Insurance covered the damages and helped add on a third dining room to accommodate more customers.
As for a specific time of day that’s the busiest, Drye says it varies.
“They’ll be some days where you won’t get five rolling cents from what you take in and they’ll be other days that there’ll be hundreds of dollars difference of what you take in,” he says.
Saturdays during hunting season are always busy, but Drye says there’s a major difference in the way he and Scott go about it — Scott doesn’t open until 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Hunters want to be in the trees by then, so Drye says he would open at 4:00 or 4:30 a.m.
Although Scott isn’t as early of a riser, he expanded The Hub’s hours to include dinner two to three nights a week for a short period of time. The dinner menu featured entrees like prime rib, steak, barbecue and seafood. But the hours were too much. Now, Drye misses one thing in particular about the dinner menu.
“He’d always take the ends of the prime ribs for me, slice it up and make sandwiches,” he says. “Make the best Philly Cheese Steak with prime rib, it was good. Mmm!”
Life Before the Restaurant
Drye’s father died when he was six months old. Drye, one of three, has a brother and a sister. After his father’s death, his mom moved his family to Morven Rd. in Wadesboro and remarried.
Drye grew up in a simple log cabin. He wasn’t a picky eater growing up. He ate what was put on the table in front of him and liked it, because there’s wasn’t enough money to be picky. Tomato sandwiches and fried chicken were a few of his favorites though.
He went to Wingate University for two years before leaving for the work force.
But before Drye was the owner of The Hub, he was a bouncer. While the most widely used definition for bouncer on a college campus is someone who checks IDs at a bar, Drye was a different bouncer of sorts.
A tent skating rink opened up in town, and after Drye learned to skate well, he got a job as the rink’s bouncer. But skating rink bouncers don’t check IDs.
“You know, we make people slow down, kick people out if they’re misbehaving or whatever,” he says.
And that’s how he met his long-time wife.
“One night her mother brought (Dianne) and a couple of girls out skating and I took a liking to her,” he says. “And I aggravated her.”
Aggravation turned to love and the two married when he was 19 and she was 18. Their wedding ceremony was held in a small church in Marshville, just a short drive down the road from Wadesboro, but marriage wasn’t the only thing on Drye’s mind. Duke was also playing ball that weekend and he didn’t want to miss seeing his team play.
Life After The Hub
As a young man, Drye says he was girl crazy and loved playing football. But at the age of 65 when he turned his business over to his son, he decided to do something he had never done before — play the base fiddle.
Drye took lessons for two years and plays with a local group that performs at a community store every Tuesday night.
“The group I play with here are some pretty good musicians,” Drye says. “I mean darn good, one of ‘em sung with Elvis!”
Which is why the 71 year old says he doesn’t always know how to play the same chords as his other band members.
“They say, ‘We gonna play this in F sharp,’” he says. “Stand up base has no frets, so I say ‘Well you gonna have to show me where that is!”
Drye’s first instructor taught him how to play by ear, but his new instructor is teaching him specific chords.
“I tell him, ‘I’m 71 years old now, it’s harder to teach me than a dog, but I’m learnin’ some,’” he says.
Drye also spends time on his farm with his two dogs, as well as his son’s three dogs. And while he used to work alongside his wife, Dianne, at The Hub everyday, he now gets to spend time with her outside of the restaurant.
Dianne worked for a company out of Charlotte that made light fixtures and frames for around 25 years when she was let go.
“She went to work one mornin’ and they just said, ‘We don’t need you anymore,’” he says. “They kept the youngest and the least seniority because they were cheaper, less benefit.
“Anyway, I let her grieve for two days then brought her to work back here with me.”
But Drye says he still doesn’t think spouses should work together.
“You know, togetherness 24 hours a day, seven days a week — think about it,” he says. “But we get along! We still together!”
Food At Home
Though Drye ran the front of The Hub cooking on the grill, he was never a “pot cook.” The fixin’s are his wife’s expertise, and at home he isn’t even allowed in the kitchen.
“My wife, that’s her kitchen, she don’t let me in the kitchen,” he says. “Last night we had shrimp and crab, she is an excellent cook, an excellent baker. She baked three pound cakes this morning!”
Dianne still bakes most of the desserts for The Hub, including her homemade egg custard pie. While she bakes some sweets for the restaurant, she also bakes them for friends.
But there’s one thing Drye says they don’t eat at home — burgers. He likes to eat his at his favorite restaurant, The Hub.
44 Years of Dedication
For Drye, it has never been about the money, which is something that was instilled in him even growing up. It has always been about the people. Drye started his career working for Eastern Airlines then went on to drive a truck that delivered parts. That’s when he had an opportunity to buy half interest in The Hub in the late 60s. Which is exactly what he did, while still renting the building. Later he outright bought it from the building’s owner.
“I don’t know why I wanted to buy it, but I did,” he chuckled. “We borrowed the money from our credit union and I paid it off in three years.”
And as fast food businesses continue to move to the area, it has become increasingly harder to survive. But the Hub has a great combination that Drye says keeps the Hub afloat — affordable, good food and a friendly atmosphere.
“It’s been a good life, we’ve never made a lotta money,” he says. “But I bought a farm and I have an educated family.”