- Associated Press - Monday, October 16, 2017

CROSS HILL, S.C. (AP) - Mike Smith’s life as a musician and nightclub manager was a far cry from the town of Mayberry, North Carolina, the idyllic setting of “The Andy Griffith Show” - and Smith’s favorite fictional place.

For 12 years, Smith traveled the country as a solo artist and in different bands, playing with country stars such as Conway Twitty and David Rogers. When he got off the road, he managed the Silver Fox in Greenville for more than 20 years, a country club that regularly hosted such headliners as Percy Sledge and Chubby Checker. For decades, Smith worked in the fast-paced world of the music industry, doing business with iconic country artists and ushering more than 4 million people through the doors of the club during the course of his career.

When the Silver Fox shut down, Smith started looking for his next project. While driving on S.C. Highway 14 in Greer, he passed a vacant restaurant building and it hit him: the Mayberry Diner.

He had a storage unit full of posters, photos and other memorabilia from “The Andy Griffith Show” he’d planned to decorate his “man cave” with, but when he saw the empty building, he decided on a different use for them.

“We were out in the country but that’s where I want to be,” he said. “Somebody said, ‘What’re you going to name it?’ and I already had the stuff and it didn’t take me but five seconds to come up with the name, Mayberry Diner.”

He said business at the Highway 14 location was good, but when he left to manage Skipper’s Landing in Cross Hill, sales took a downturn and the restaurant closed two years after it opened.

But Smith didn’t give up on the idea of the Mayberry Diner, and about a month ago, he and his wife Brenda opened a new location, slinging burgers and hot dogs at 179 N. Main St., Cross Hill.

The inside walls of the diner are lined with photos of Andy Griffith, Opie, Aunt Bee and, of course, Griffith’s bumbling deputy Barney Fife.

“I love Andy, but Don Knotts was the show, you know,” Smith said.

“The Andy Griffith Show” plays on the TV in the corner whenever the store is open, except for Saturday, when Brenda said they make the occasional exception for college football.

Smith - who hosts a country music radio show every Saturday on WZLA 92.9 in Abbeville - said for him, the show is more than just a way to draw in customers or his favorite TV program, but a symbol of a way of life he wants to preserve.

“It’s really important to me, especially for the kids coming in here, where a lot of times at home they’re watching all kinds of stuff or on a game killing people,” he said. “At our restaurant in Greer, every Saturday people would bring their kids in. And every one of those kids knew who Opie was and who Aunt Bee was, and I don’t want that to go away.”

In the past several years, the building Smith and his wife set up shop in has housed a number of restaurants from a barbecue joint that folded not long after it opened to a restaurant called Renee’s, that only opened on weekends and didn’t stay in business long.

Before that, it was a restaurant called King’s, a staple in Cross Hill for about two decades. Many in Cross Hill are glad to see a full-time restaurant take the place of King’s.

Charlie Hanbey, a resident of the town for about 20 years, said she was glad to see the Mayberry Diner come to her Cross Hill.

“This is what we need in Cross Hill,” she said. “A little place like this with good food, that’s what we need here.”

Ginger Almond worked at King’s for years and said she was hoping a restaurant like Mayberry Diner would take its place.

“This food, it’s good, it’s delicious” she said. “And for what you pay, it’s worth it.”

Smith said he wants his restaurant to be a haven for the people who walk through his door.

“If you got something on your mind that’s bothering you and you sit down in front of this TV, I’ve got 109 hours of Andy Griffith,” he said. “You take 15 minutes and just watch Barney, I promise you whatever stress level you had will just go away. It might crank up again once you get in the car, but for 15 minutes, I helped take your mind off something you don’t want to think about.”


Information from: The Index-Journal, https://www.indexjournal.com

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