The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 27, 2012

A love affair with Cotton’s Restaurant

After 41 years, lights go out for final time on New Year’s Eve

Rick Goines

TARBORO — Cotton’s Restaurant in Tarboro is closing!  Say it ain’t so Faye!  Monday December 31st, Faye Guill will oversee her last meal served at this popular local eatery.  After 41 years of satisfying the appetites and pleasing the palates of several generations of Tarborians, Cotton’s Restaurant will shut down operations.  This writer considers Cotton’s a Tarboro institution, and sheds a tear and an empty stomach growl rumbling out of respect for its demise.

I feel like I am losing a good friend.  Because of the Guill family, and I include all the nice folks that work there, immediate family and co-workers alike in that group, eating at Cotton’s was always about much more than just good food at an affordable price.  It was hospitality, friendliness, and personal service one rarely encounters these days in restaurants anywhere.

As a Cotton’s “regular,” I am sort of a “newbie.”  I have only been eating there for 14 years.  As a matter of fact, my first restaurant meal in Tarboro was at Cotton’s in 1999.  It was a lunch buffet, and it was love at first bite.

 Wifey, Linda, and her family have been enjoying Cotton’s all 41 years the restaurant has existed.  It was Linda’s family’s favorite, and always a first choice when deciding where to eat out in Tarboro for Linda’s parents, Agnes and Tom Tharrington. 

Locals that meet, greet, and eat at Cotton’s regularly have no idea where they will go after it closes.  The key phrase at my house was, “Let’s go squat’n at Cotton’s.”  The Sunday afternoon buffet was a “must do” for many Edgecombe County folks.  A room full of happy folks in their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes was the norm at Cotton’s each and every Sunday afternoon.  Some days they were a little crowded, and you might have to wait for a table, but it was always well worth the wait, and besides that gave Wifey some time to chat-it-up, and the good Lord knows that woman is an expert chat-it-upper.

Al Hull, lifetime Tarboro resident, real estate broker, and Town Commissioner, says he doesn’t know what he is going to do, “Because our stove simply will not work at our house on Sunday afternoons.”  I’m afraid a lot of us will share his pain, and this profound dilemma.

Cotton’s was named after Faye’s husband, Horace, whose nickname was “Cotton,” because of his shock of cotton-white hair.  He died in the early 1980’s, ten years after opening Cotton’s.  Of course, I never knew him, but I am absolutely certain he would be pleased and proud of Faye, and his girls Gloria and Mitzi for completing 41 successful years in the Tarboro restaurant business.  I would be remiss not to mention that Gloria, who efficiently handled the meet, greet, and cashier duties at the restaurant, passed away in 2008.  Her friendly greeting and smile was missed these past 4 ? years.

Since I eat at Cotton’s 2-3 times a week, Cotton’s closing might be a good time for me to consider that serious diet I have been putting off.  I could call it “the Cotton’s is closed, and I don’t have anything good to eat, or a good reason to overeat diet.”  Sounds like a plan.

Cotton’s hasn’t even closed yet, and I am already missing those nice folks as I anticipate Faye locking the front door for the final time on the last calendar day of 2012.  I think I might pass on a final lunch Monday, and go fishing that day so I don’t get all emotional, and make a fool of myself.

The upside and good news is that the “Cotton’s Family” is a group of quality people full of character, and warm, engaging personalities.  They will all soldier-on in this world, pursuing their individual, independent goals, and continuing their successful ways in whatever direction they choose.  These good people are winners, and winners usually continue to thrive in all of life’s circumstances.  So, good luck and May God bless.

Goodbye Cotton’s, my old friend!  Thanks for the good times, good friends, and delicious memories!

Caption for picture:  The Cotton’s Restaurant family: seated are Mitzi Guill Harrell, and Faye Dixon Guill; standing are Tracy Harrell, B. J. Denton, and Billy Ray James.  Not pictured, are Brenda Whitfield, and Jamie Laughter.