Goodbye, Min-o-Pon: End of an era on Troy Road

It has been said, “if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.”

And among those who would agree with that sentiment are Patricia, Elaine and Geraldine Johnson, owners and operators of the Min-O-Pon, which will be closing permanently at 2 p.m. Saturday to make way for the widening of N.C. Highway 24-27 east from Albemarle to Lake Tillery.

“We have worked here for 12 years,” said Patricia, “and have run it for the last six.”

Originally opened by the Thaddeus Furr family more than 60 years ago, the business has become a landmark along N.C. 24-27 and has become known for its breakfast and lunch fare. In the process, the eatery has built a faithful customer base among locals.

Elaine and Patricia Johnson work the grill getting orders ready for customers at the business on Friday morning. (Photo by Toby Thorpe)

In years past, the store was known to many as the primary place to purchase bait and tackle on the way to a day of fishing at the lake.

“I remember a big bass they used to keep in a tank out front,” said Bobbie Frick, who, along with husband Darrell, had dropped in for breakfast on this day. “They had minnows in another tank beside it,” she added.

More recently, early morning hours during deer season would find the parking lot full as hunters grabbed a biscuit or two before heading to their tree stands. Noon would bring employees from nearby businesses in Albemarle and Badin, who could grab a plate lunch and still be back on the job in an hour.

“We stay busy at breakfast,” said Patricia, “and a lot of people visit us for lunch to get our daily special plates with a meat and vegetables.”

When asked to name some of the shop’s regular customers, Patricia and Elaine rattled off a list of more than 20 names, as well as employees at seven businesses, too numerous to list here.

“We just want to thank all of our customers,” Patricia said. “They are like family to us, and we are going to miss seeing them. We wish them all the best.”

Elaine said Megan Wilburn and Lori Austin have worked with them as well, and although not present this next-to-last morning of operation, have been essential members of the team.

“Not only are they co-workers and friends, they are family to us,” she said.

The customers present on Friday morning were unanimous in their praise of the soon-to-be gone diner.

“This is a great place to eat, with good food and friendly service,” said Ralph Allen as he finished his morning meal.

“We’ve had so many good times here,” said Bobbie Frick. “There is always a lot of laughter and cutting up.”

“I hate they are closing,” said Bobbie’s husband, Darrell “Tooth Pick” Frick. “This bunch has been like a second family to us.”

Robert and Ruby Rummage echoed the sentiments of the Fricks.

“We have made lots of friends here,” said Ruby, noting she and Robert might have never met Bobbie and Darrell were it not for breakfasts at the Min-O-Pon.

“I hate to see it close, too,” said Robert.

“But you can’t stop progress,” he added, in reference to the future road widening project.

Asked about future plans, Patricia spoke for Elaine and Geraldine in saying though enjoyable as their time at work has been, a respite will be nice.

“Our first plan is to take a break and rest,” she said. “Getting up at 4 a.m. every morning will wear you out.”

And are there plans for a reincarnation of the Min-O-Pon?

“We have not decided yet,” said Patricia. “But if we do open another business like this, it would be in the Norwood area.”

Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.