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home : news : news August 24, 2017

2/6/2014 12:58:00 PM
It's Is Gone; Popeye's Coming
Photo of It's being demolished courtesy of Kevin Yount.
Photo of It's being demolished courtesy of Kevin Yount.

Wayne Howard
News Journalist

A Lincolnton landmark bit the dust Thursday morning (Feb. 6th) as crews demolished It's Grill as well as Tradewinds and a storage building on the same site to make room for a Popeye's Restaurant that may open as soon as April.
The Department of Revenue said the owners of Aunt Bessie’s, Tommy’s Drive-In, It’s Grill and Village Video had not paid more than $300,000 in sales and payroll taxes when the state shut down the businesses and seized the assets to be sold at auction to help pay the tax debt.

According to the state, the businesses were owned by Stephen and Rebecca Gibson of Denver under the name We Manage Incorporated.  Gibson's father, Tommy, had opened the original Tommy's Drive In on US321 between Dallas and Gastonia.  The younger Gibson bought the Lincolnton businesses years later.

Earl Elmore, who had operated the Creamland Grill on US321 north of Lincolnton since 1946, built It's in 1956.  The flashing sign proclaimed THIS IS IT.  Hamburgers cost a quarter and the favorite sandwiches were Poor Boys and Poor Girls.  Earl invented the 'set up," a mixture of Sundrop, lemon juice and a dash of cherry flavor that has since been called a Cherry Lemon Sundrop, although most who remember say what you buy in a can or bottle today is a far inferior product to the one you could buy at It's.  Sandy Hudson, who took over It's in 1974, changed the mixture a bit and made a few menu changes, but most everything at It's remained very similar to its 1950s beginning right up until it closed in December 2011.

Mayor John Gilleland bought It's and the Tradewinds restaurant located on the back of the lot at the tax auction.  He had been negotiating with Popeye's for months and many people already knew they were coming, it was just a matter of when.

Brent Hobbs, Director of Development for Popeye's said they're hoping to open before the end of April.  Popeye's, headquartered in Atlanta, operates some 2200 restaurants in the U.S. and in other countries including one in Mooresville, one in Concord, one in Charlotte and two in Rock Hill, S.C. 

Popeye's started in New Orleans in 1972.  It was first called Chicken on the Run, but the owner, Alvin Copeland, changed the name to Popeye's (after the Popeye Doyle character in the movie The French Connection) and switched from traditional Southern fried chicken to a spicy Cajun recipe. 

In 1989, Popeye's added crawfish to the menu.  In 1992, America's Favorite Chicken, later known as AFC Enterprises, bought both Popeye's and Church's chicken restaurants.  Popeye's launched its Buttterfly Shrimp Tackle Box in 2009.  Rapid growth since saw the company pass the 2000-location mark in 2011. 

Many long-time It's customers will be sad to see the old restaurant torn down, but to bring the location up to current health standards would have required a larger investment than simply tearing down the building and erecting a new one.  Mayor Gilleland said several people expressed an interest in reviving It's after it closed, but when they investigated the cost, they decided it wasn't a reasonable investment.

There are similarities between Popeye's and Bojangles--both serve spicy chicken although the flavor is a bit different.  But Bojangles is more involved with breakfast items and Popeye's offers some different choices including the crawfish and shrimp.  Both claim their biscuits are the best--locally they also have competition in that area from Hardee's and McDonald's as well as other locally owned restaurants.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Judy Dorsey

I love Popeyes - they have better than Bojangles chicken and they have unique biscuits and that gravy they make is to die for. Can't pass that establishment up on any trip we take outta town. I am in a can't wait state - come on Popeyes!

Posted: Friday, February 07, 2014
Article comment by: Tom Franken

Yeah!! Another fast food joint.
How about some higher end food establishments so I dont have to drive to other counties for a decent meal!??!?

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2014
Article comment by: Tiffany Crump

That was IT!!Everybody from Lincolnton has eaten there!! and Tradewinds had a good orange cream cake...Its about time they did something with the lot!!

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2014
Article comment by: Chafin Rhyme

Guess Lincolnton must take what it can get. Feels like just Another drive through resturant as people drive through Lincolnton.

Posted: Thursday, February 06, 2014
Article comment by: KYLE LEWIS

Boo... Popeye's! Because that's what Lincolnton needs... More fried chicken. :P

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