Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe Closes Permanently

On Dec. 1, a goodbye note on the website and a message on the diner’s voicemail thanked customers of Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe for decades of memories. (Grant Halverson ’93)

Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe — closed “temporarily” since late March after the state’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions closed public dining rooms — announced in December it would not reopen.

Its owners and longtime employees had hoped they could hold out and resume whipping up the short-order waffles, biscuits, hash browns and other breakfast fare served through lunchtime. But diners’ habits had adapted to ordering takeout and to social distancing inside restaurants. Those challenges were too great for the narrow diner, its counter running the length of the place, seating customers on one side and cooks working the grill on the other. Ye Olde didn’t do catering and didn’t have online ordering. And takeout wasn’t an option when customers had come for the neighborliness as much as the comfort food.

The tight squeeze that had made Ye Olde’s homey atmosphere successful for almost half a century led to its demise.

“For us, it was a public health decision,” said Melissa Peng, daughter of Ye Olde’s late founder Jimmy Chris. For Peng, one question — “Does our business model work in this climate?” — led to another — “Why do we operate?” “It’s about an intimacy,” she concluded.

So on Dec. 1, a goodbye note on the website and a message on the diner’s voicemail thanked customers for decades of memories.

Customers came back time and time again to recall special moments at the breakfast spot where they met, got engaged, celebrated birthdays and pregnancies or mourned the loss of a cherished loved one, Peng said.

Her father opened Ye Olde in 1972 in the Tankersley Building at 173 E. Franklin St., which his family had owned since the 1940s. He divided the space into two restaurants (the other became Four Corners) and asked college buddy Al Thomas to join him in the business. It offered a malted waffle for $1.10 and a plate of two pancakes for 75 cents and became a Chapel Hill breakfast institution.

After Thomas died in 1986, Chris and his wife, Linda, became sole owners. When Jimmy Chris died in 2012, running the restaurant became a mother-daughter venture.

Though prices edged up over time, nothing else changed much — until last year, when the shop closed for a month to replace some water pipes in the century-old building and Peng added some omelets and breakfast wraps once it reopened.

Ye Olde had received a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan aimed at mitigating the hardship, but once it became clear that the diner wouldn’t reopen, Peng gave the money back. The $7,000 donated to its GoFundMe campaign in April went to pay longtime employees who had been furloughed.

Still, Linda Chris is left with gratitude: “Thank people for making our dreams come true.”

Once the pandemic recedes, the prime spot could give another restaurant a shot at fulfilling dreams and creating a new trove of memories. The voicemail message on Ye Olde’s phone asked prospective commercial tenants to leave word.

Townsend Bertram Comes to the End of Its Trail

Townsend Bertram & Co. — which had pitched its tents, backpacks and fashionable clothing for an active lifestyle on and off the trails for the past 32 years in Carrboro’s Carr Mill Mall — closed in November.

Customers line up to enter Townsend Bertram & Co. after an announcement that the Carr Mill Mall store will close permanently at the end of November. (Grant Halverson ’93)

In 1988, shortly after Audrey Townsend and Scott Bertram ’72 married, they leased space next door to the new Weaver Street Market. It was a perfect pairing — their merchandise for healthy outdoor activities next to a vendor specializing in organic and healthy food, including many items that packed well for the trails.

“It’s been a great run,” Townsend said. “Carrboro is a great place. We’ve always been well-supported by the community.”

Townsend Bertram also supported the community, investing in local nonprofits working to protect the environment, right social wrongs, improve health and educate on a variety of issues. When Bertram died in 2017, the store started a scholarship in his name that partnered with the nonprofit Learning Outside to honor his adventurous life.

After Bertram’s cancer diagnosis in 2013, his and Townsend’s older daughter, Betsy Bertram, took on a larger role in the business, working as brand developer and partnering with Sara Abernethy and Taylor Dansby to keep the store going while Townsend cared for her husband.

The store had thrived, but its lease was coming up for renewal, the pandemic was persisting and Townsend’s daughter was moving away. After decades of working in the store where, Townsend said, “every day was fun,” the prospect of running it on her own held no joy. Nevertheless, she said, “I will miss it.”

Townsend said she considered selling the shop, but “it’s hard to sell a business during COVID.”

Blue’s on Franklin Moves Into Former Moe’s

The line out the door on the October opening night of Blue’s on Franklin validated a hunch Andrew Young ’92 had that, with pandemic dining restrictions relaxed, Chapel Hill diners were ready to get out and get some barbecue.

Young bought a building with plenty of outdoor seating, the former home of Moe’s Southwest Grill, which closed earlier this year after the pandemic twice chased UNC students away from campus. It also originally had been the Pure Oil gas station where his dad, Robert Young ’57, and three friends gassed up before driving to Kansas City to watch the Tar Heels win the 1957 men’s college basketball championship. (Robert also had proposed to Andrew’s mom, Jacquelyn Aldridge ’57, on Franklin Street, but not at the Pure Oil station.)

Young has turned the place into a sports, music and barbecue joint, with big-screen TVs, a stellar sound system and an extensive menu featuring classic fare such as pulled pork in “sammiches” with vinegar-based sauce and slaw, but also newfangled variations, including pulled pork on a “filly cheese steak,” in a “BBQ-rito,” and on top of fries and onion rings or mac ‘n’ cheese.

110 W. Franklin St.  |

Market and Moss Takes Over Pazzo Spot

Annie Johnston ’13 bought Pazzo Pizzeria more than a year ago when her former boss, Seth Kingsbury, closed it. It was just down the street from her coffee and gelato cafe in Southern Village, La Dolce Vita. She started renovating right away to transform it into her vision for New American cuisine. Then came COVID, and she had to refocus on the health of La Dolce Vita.

But in October, with plenty of outdoor seating on Market Street sidewalks, she opened Market and Moss. Ingredients come from local farmers and North Carolina seafood, as well as an inspired pastry chef. Lunch and dinner — featuring such fare as grilled plum and burrata with serrano ham, basil, pine nuts and white balsamic honey; brick-oven roasted chicken; and ricotta cheesecake with a pistachio crust — can be had inside, outdoors or as takeout.

700 Market St., Chapel Hill  |

— Nancy E. Oates


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