A muddy slice of a bygone era was scooped up by a track hoe and served into a waiting Mack truck as the vacant restaurant building in the L&S Shopping Center was taken down Thursday morning.
The estimated 2,400-square-foot building has been the home of a restaurant known by several different names since it was originally built more than 50 years ago. Deano’s Barbecue was the last restaurant to occupy the building in 2010 and 2011, according to city business license records.
The L&S Foodland was built in 1953 and re-built three months after a fire burned the grocery store to the ground on July 30, 1971. Shopping center owners Dick Smith and Billy Smith closed the store in September 2011 after 58 years and sold the seven-acre L&S property, including the restaurant building across from the grocery store, to the county in May 2012.
Two of the founding owners of L&S were Dick’s father, Harold Smith, and Billy’s father, Billy G. Smith. They were highly regarded by the local community for being caring and fair businessmen. One of the most popular anecdotes about the Smiths is that their employees were still paid while the store was being re-built.
“The way I understand it, none of his employees missed a paycheck,” said state Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens, who was mayor of Athens for 18 years. “L&S had a local clientele, and it was almost the atmosphere of the old country store that had been modernized. Everybody up there knew each other, and the clientele was very loyal to the (Foodland).
“People really liked the Smiths because they were upstanding people, real good folks who provided jobs, treated people right and wouldn’t let anyone go hungry.”
The Dixie Dip
The restaurant originally opened as The Dixie Dip and was a drive-up with carhops.
“It was built in the mid-1960s, and it was owned by Mr. Buford and Mary Romine,” said Dick Smith, whose father Harold was one of the original L&S owners. “There wasn’t anywhere to sit inside, and they served ice cream and hamburgers.”
It was unclear whether another restaurant was in operation after The Dixie Dip closed and before Crow’s Nest Restaurant opened in the early 1980s.