Jun. 21—GRANITE FALLS — After dedicating 27 years to serving the community, Al's Diner is on the verge of closing its doors.
Dennis and Tammy Bradshaw, husband and wife, have been the proprietors of Al's Diner since they bought the place in 1996. The couple previously worked at McDonald's for nearly 20 years, where they met and fell in love.
"When we first started [Al's Diner], we were nervous, of course," said Tammy. "But everybody was really great with us. People have become family, coming in every day, bringing their kids and grandkids. And now, their kids are bringing their kids. We've watched so many generations come through the door ... We've been very blessed to have an extended family."
Dennis explained how they devised the name Al's Diner.
"We have two daughters, Ashley and Latasha," he said. "We took the first two letters of their names, and that's how we came up with Al's."
Ashley and Latasha both started working in the diner as soon as they turned 15. The sisters have children of their own who grew up in the loving, welcoming environment of the restaurant.
"My son will be 19 this August," Latasha said. "He used to wait here for the bus before and after school in elementary school. He got to know a lot of the customers, and they welcomed him in with open arms. He grew up in here."
Besides serving delicious, Carolina-style food, the family has given back to the community in a variety of ways, such as inviting their customers to join them for a huge meal on Thanksgiving.
"We try to help and give out as much as we get," Tammy said.
Now, after nearly 50 years in the restaurant industry, Dennis is looking forward to a well-earned retirement.
"I'm going to town, buy me a pair of loafers, and I'm going to loaf," he said jokingly.
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Al's Diner, located at 47 Falls Ave. in Granite Falls, will continue to serve burgers, hot dogs, barbecue sandwiches, chicken, breakfast plates, and more through the front window until Saturday, July 29. The lobby has already been closed, and renovations are almost complete. The family is saddened to leave, but also excited for the next chapter in their lives.
"They started this place from scratch," Latasha said, tears forming in her eyes. "They had to save and build up, and they've worked their butts off. This was my dad's dream, to own his own business. It's hard to see them having to let go of it, but they've worked so hard their entire lives. We've never needed for anything. We will be forever grateful for everything that they've done for us and our kids. We want them to be able to enjoy life for a change, and do for them, because they're always doing for others. I just want them to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. They've earned it. We want to support them in this new journey and this opportunity for them."
Dennis and Tammy are planning a trip to Hawaii later this year. They'll be gone for three weeks.
"We've been married over 35 years," said Tammy. "We're going to start enjoying life and doing things that we've put off for so long."
Community members have offered their heartfelt support to the family. A number of people have commented on a Facebook post announcing the closing of the diner.
"Very sorry to hear this," Rudy Cook commented.
"Really gonna miss their breakfast & cheeseburgers," said April Ford.
"Gonna miss my livermush and egg every morning. Not to mention the conversation with Al. Enjoy your retirement buddy!" said Danny Eugene Money.
"It's been special," Tammy said. "It's been a great door that has opened for us. It's time for that other door to open."
She said they decided to sell the place because "it wouldn't be the same without Dennis here."
"Even if it were still called Al's, it wouldn't be the same," she said.