The sun slowly rises. Shadows cast blanket the dew-covered ground. The clouds illuminate with glory. The world wakes up. But she has been awake for hours, just like every morning for the past sixty years. Every day, Ida Jean Mayhew witnesses the beautiful symphony of daybreak.
There’s no need for an alarm. After sixty years, 12:00a.m. has become her routine. However, even at eighty-eight, the routine doesn’t seem mundane. It is her purpose and her calling.
After a 5:00p.m. bedtime, she wakes up at midnight, starting her day with a five-mile ride on her stationary bike, something she’s done “her entire married life.” After getting ready, she climbs in her white Lincoln Town Car and heads to open her restaurant, The Goody Goody Omelet House, under the moonlit sky.
Mrs. Mayhew carries on a legacy started long ago by her husband, Roscoe Mayhew, known affectionately as RB. His portrait still hangs on the wall, and she’s not ashamed to admit that, as she prepares their small restaurant every morning, she still talks to him.
“I still give him a salute when I come in, ‘I’m here!’ After fifty-six years of marriage, you can’t help but think about someone every day; even if they’re gone.”
After four years of cooking in the Navy, RB married Ida and started their first restaurant, Mayhew’s Barbecue, in 1946 just outside of Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Shortly thereafter, Vernon Rudolph, the founder of Krispy Kreme and a good friend, approached RB with a business opportunity. Knowing that opportunity often looks like hard work, they took a chance. They went on to own the first official Krispy Kreme franchise in 1949, opening three franchises before they sold back to corporate in the mid-1970s.
In 1977, they bought a small, one acre tract off of Market Street and opened the Goody Goody Omelet House.
“We just wanted to have a small place that the family could operate; small and simple,” Mrs. Mayhew said as she formed the hamburger meat into small paddies for the day’s patrons. I stood watching her at work as I listened to her words. She perfectly measured each quarter-pound of beef as we talked, yet she kept her eyes in constant contact with mine. She knew exactly what she was doing.
Although she’s extremely humble and hesitant to admit it, the Goody Goody is everything but small and simple.
Those who have had the pleasure of visiting know the orange roof of the Goody Goody is a staple in Wilmington, North Carolina. True to their motto, “Just Good Food,” they offer Southern soul fare with a smile and a side of encouragement.
This is their legacy.
My first experience at the Goody was in a baby carrier over thirty years ago. It was a day I certainly don’t remember, but Mrs. Mayhew does. As we continued to talk she said, “I can still see you in that bassinet on the table.” It was, is, and always will be a tradition. Since then, my countless visits have spanned four generations; my grandfather, my father, myself, and now, my boys.
As I sat in the familiar surroundings with my three-year-old, I thought, Mrs. Mayhew’s story is unique, a lost testimony to a generation that is soon to be gone and values that seem to be disappearing. Her story needs to be told; the Goody has something to say.
Like a sacred shrine that only holds thirty-five at a time, the small brick building is a refuge for those seeking good food and good company. One patron quipped, “It’s one of the only places I’ve ever been where I can go alone and not be alone.” Its foundation goes beyond the bricks; it’s one of hard work, unbending morals, and unshakable faith.
In a world where employees come and go for the next best opportunity, Mrs. Mayhew has managed to keep hers, some for well over twenty years. Dave, for example, started washing dishes at fourteen. He’s forty-one now and manages the open grill as if it were an art form. Fred, who is nearing twenty-three years, takes care of the pancakes, waffles, toast, and biscuits.
I asked Mrs. Mayhew about her employees’ loyalty:
“I’m good to those that are good to me.”
The conversations that have graced those walls, I know, are only part of the story. The smell of the bacon on the grill adds to the ambiance that is created every time you walk through the door. As ticket orders fly across the counter, sliding down the metal ticket holder, the drone of open conversations and the sizzle of the burgers blend into one big story.
A story everyone wants to be a part of. The line outside the door proves it.
Mrs. Mayhew’s legacy is unique because it allows others to create their own. Her 2:00a.m. commitment has allowed those who enter to enjoy the company and conversations the establishment brings. With a smile all her own, she invests in her customers and calls her regulars by name. “Whatchya’ll like?” is her familiar call as she grabs her pencil and scratches orders on her slender, white notepad.
When I asked her why she keeps doing it at eighty-five years old, she replied,
“I just love people. Retire? What’s that? My daddy always taught me the value of working for yourself. As long as I’m here, I’ll be here.”
When I asked her if she knew the impact the restaurant had on so many people, she simply responded, “I just want them to get good food.” And when I asked her what it means to her, she answered firmly, “I wouldn’t sell it.”
“There isn’t any amount of money in the world that you would give up for is there?” I already knew the answer.
“You can’t put a price on something like this.”
As soon as I heard those words come out of her small, weathered frame, I knew Mrs. Mayhew was telling me a story. She embodies everything this book is about. She exudes living richly.
It is her legacy.
You can’t help but have a special bond with someone whose dedication is carried out so unconditionally. In the end, when richness is achieved, it seems effortless—a thing of beauty. I can’t stand to think of the day when her sweet smile and perfectly permed hair won’t greet me with the hug and kiss I’ve become so accustomed. However, I know it will, as I think about RB sitting in his chair, thanking me every time I stopped by. I love Mrs. Mayhew dearly, as if she were my own blood. I love the Goody Goody.
I can’t stand to stomach the day when her sweet, small frame and perfectly permed hair won’t greet me with the hug and kiss I’ve become so occustomed to. However, I know it will as I still remember RB sitting in his chair thanking me every time I stopped by.
They will forever be a part of my story.