Local News

Popular Rocky Mount Restaurant Closes

Posted July 23, 2003

— After 79 years of chopping barbeque, a popular Rocky Mount restaurant is out of business.

For almost four years, WRAL followed the story of Melton's Barbecue trying to recover after Hurricane Floyd.

The hurricane put Melton's and many other Rocky Mount businesses out of business. Melton's owner, Tommy Smith, re-opened the restaurant on higher ground.

"The people responded," Smith said. "The Rocky Mount citizens were great in early 2000."

While the Tar River flooded the original Melton's location, hard economic times sunk the second.

With several layoffs and plant closings in the area, money is tight. The combination spells doom for restaurants.

"You don't have to eat out," Smith said. "You can eat a bologna sandwich at home. You know, the whole food service industry in all parts of the country is down a good 25 to 30 percent."

Nevertheless, many of the businesses that were under water in 1999 are still in business. According to the Chamber of Commerce, new retailers and restaurants are on their way.

The upturn did not turn up at Melton's. So now comes the day 22-year employee Elsie Hill fulfills her promise to Smith.

"I promised him when he took on the restaurant, if he ever went out, me and him would lock the doors together," Hill said.

As for Smith, at 52, he said he is considering leaving the Rocky Mount area to find work in another field.

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