LUMBERTON — With generous helpings of love and hard work, an iconic Lumberton eatery plans to restore the “30 years of memories and hand prints” washed away by flood waters.
An institution in Robeson County with 30 years of serving hungry people, Fuller’s Old Fashioned BBQ on Roberts Avenue was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew. From under 6 feet of water, owner Eric Locklear plans to rebuild and get back to cooking as soon as possible in the 7,466-square-foot building.
“Right now we are just salvaging what we can,” Locklear said Monday, as friends, family and staff scrubbed, disinfected, washed and cleaned hundreds of metal items from the kitchen. The squad of around a dozen were power-washing everything from pots and pans to shelving looking to get the popular barbecue buffet back.
Some of the employees at the restaurant have been with Fuller’s for more than 20 years.
“So, we are more like family than employers and employees. We do a lot of hugging” said Karen Locklear, wife of Eric. “They were ready to come out at 7 o’clock this morning, it is amazing.”
After being ravaged by lingering stormwater, everything in the ground floor of the restaurant will be ripped out and replaced. One floor up, which got around 2 feet of water, the walls and carpet will have to be replaced.
The water was so high that Eric could touch the top corner of the building from the fishing boat he explored his property with after the rain.
“I could have got off and got on the roof,” Eric said. “That was weird. The first day when I came around the corner … and all I could see was mostly the roof. It was like somebody hit me in the stomach. It took the breath out of me.”
The second-generation owner of the business, Eric is the son of Fuller and Delores Locklear, who opened the business in the 1980s.
The restaurant was planning to have 30th anniversary festivities underway next week, as a banner still hanging from the roof proclaims, but that has been postponed.
“We were just celebrating 30 years this month, ain’t that a way to bring it in,” Eric said. “But we will have it when we have our grand reopening.”
“We had some stuff in a cabinet from the first very first restaurant, the little one down the road,” Karen said.
“I got to save all the pictures out of there,” Eric said. “We had to take a boat, go on the inside and go around on the boat and gather the pictures of my Mom and everything. The stuff you can’t replace.”
It’s too early in the process to know when the restaurant will reopen — the owners had yet to reach their insurance company on Monday.
“We can’t wait on them, this is our livelihood,” Eric Locklear said. “So, we are taking pictures of everything and getting going.”
For those who may have catering orders with Fuller’s, they will still honor all of them as they cook out of their Fayetteville restaurant.
The restaurant’s menu includes barbecue and other Southern favorites, especially of the fried variety, a salad bar and homemade desserts. Fuller’s is also a gathering spot for a lot of local officials for lunch, and is well known for its charity work in the community.
Reach Mike Gellatly on Twitter @MikeGellatly