A much-beloved and longtime staple of the Lincolnton restaurant scene is soon closing.
Pizza Hotline, owned by Roger Melson, will shut its doors Saturday after a couple of decades serving local residents.
“I really have enjoyed this,” Melson said of his time running the restaurant.
However, at 78 years old, he has decided that it’s “time to think about getting out.”
He started the business 35 years ago in Mint Hill. After marrying a “beautiful woman that lived in Lincolnton,” he moved the operation to the area, first in Boger City for a decade and then, for the past 12 years, on Vandiver Drive in Lincolnton.
It began as primarily a “hotline” for people to call to order pizza delivery but has grown into a full-fledged, sit-down eatery.
“It’s a wonderful community,” he said of Lincolnton.
And interacting with that community is what he will miss the most upon retirement, particularly the smiles of the children he gifts with stuffed animals when their families eat at his restaurant.
“That’s what it’s about — people,” Melson noted.
It was his own kids asking him to stop and pick up pizza on his way home from a previous job that gave him the idea to get into the industry.
Using a family recipe from his aunt, he soon started making and selling pizzas and hasn’t looked back since.
Both his wife, Nancy, and son have worked at the restaurant over the years, but Melson said he’s ready to spend time with them outside of the business.
“It’s time,” Nancy agreed.
When word spread that he was retiring, regular customers of Pizza Hotline began showing an outpouring of gratitude for not only his pizza, but for Melson, himself, with some even writing thank-you notes.
“I’m proud of all these people that like me and my pizza,” he said.
One group awarded Melson with a token of appreciation last week in return for his strong support of local law enforcement throughout the years. Members of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol gave him a plaque, which he proudly displays.
Melson always offered law-enforcement officials a discount, and he got to know many of them on a personal level.
He also often hosted church groups and baked pizzas for Christian Ministry of Lincoln County volunteers every Christmas.
Melson leases the facility in which his restaurant is located, and he hopes someone will express interest in it and continue its use in some capacity.
“I don’t know what will happen,” he said.
While that may still be up in the air, one thing’s for certain: Pizza Hotline will be missed.