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Recent closure may conclude a chapter in local history

Though recently closed by tax officials, It’s Drive-In Grill has been a landmark on East Main Street in Lincolnton since the 1950s.

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

 

The fate of It’s Drive-In Grill may be uncertain, but original owner Earl Elmore, 90, remembers its past quite clearly.
Following the shutdown of the restaurant earlier this month due to the recent owners’ failure to pay taxes, it remains to be seen what the future of the longtime staple of Lincoln County’s restaurant industry will entail.
As the Times-News previously reported, the North Carolina Department of Revenue also closed Aunt Bessie’s and Surf’s Up Tanning, both located on North Aspen Street in Lincolnton. All three businesses were owned by Steve and Becky Gibson.
Elmore hopes this is not the end, however.
“I would love to see someone buy the place and preserve it,” he told the Times-News.
According to previous Times-News reports, Elmore opened It’s Grill, located on East Main Street in Lincolnton, in 1956, having also started Creamland Grill before then in 1947. He said he was “poor” and had “no education,” but he made $22 a week working in a mill and saved all but $2 weekly to open Creamland Grill.
He noted that whereas some kids he knew at the time were left money by their parents — adding that “some made good; some didn’t” — he had to start from scratch.
“We had to make it from nothing,” he stressed.
He eventually opened It’s Grill, while still operating Creamland, after building the drive-in and putting up the original neon sign.
“We served good food and that’s what people wanted,” he said.
What really made the restaurant a success, said Elmore, was the “poor boy” sandwich. For 50 cents, customers could enjoy both the sandwich and some fries.
He noted that in supplying those much-desired fries, he went through 2,000 pounds of potatoes a week, all of which had to be peeled and cut. Additionally, he used between 60 and 100 pork shoulders per week.
Elmore later dabbled in other restaurant ventures, including a catering business named Pine Lodge. But now, years later, he’s once again concerned with It’s and what will come of his former business.
“It really hurts,” he said. “I could cry to think that a poor boy like me could open up something with no education.”
Nonetheless, he is hopeful there is life in the once-thriving drive-in yet.

Former Times-News staff writer Martha Seagle contributed to this story.

Image courtesy of Contributed

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