A good poker player knows when to hold their cards and also knows when to fold them.
Faye Guill, the owner of Cotton’s Restaurant, says she is not a poker player, but she knows when it’s time to fold her hand. Guill announced this week she will close Cotton’s, one of Tarboro’s local landmarks, without any fanfare on Dec. 31, just as it was opened in 1971.
“When you don’t make enough money to pay the bills, then it’s time to make a change,” she said. “My customers are upset about it. I’ve been getting calls all week. We’re going to miss them. We’ve made a good living and I meet so many friends. Now, it’s time for me to move on.”
Cotton’s opened March 1, 1971 at the same location where the restaurant operates today. Guill retold the story as if it had happened just yesterday.
“My husband (Horace L. Guill) all of a sudden, had a brainstorm and decided that he wanted to change careers and open a restaurant,” she recalled. “He was running a service station. We started with just five tables. By the end of the year, he closed the service station and we begin operating the restaurant only. We slowly start adding on until we got to be a full service restaurant.”
Horace initially opened the Sinclair service station in 1953.
Cotton’s became more than an eatery — it was a gathering place for locals to start their day. Today, locals still gather there to exchange stories.
Cotton’s name originated from Faye’s husband, whose hair was “as white as a bale of cotton.” He died 10 years after the restaurant opened. By then, the business was popular and flourished into a 120-seat restaurant.
Tarboro businessman Rex Browning, the owner of Rex Jewelry, which has been in operation for 55 years, remembers the Guill’s service station business. His fondest memories, however, are from the restaurant. He doen’t want to see it close.
“I’ve been going there ever since they opened,” he said. “They have good food and they have been a fixture in the community for a long time. I hate to see them close.”
So does Guill.
However, she said the poor economy and her age are major reasons for the decision.
Business began declining at Cotton’s several years ago after Sprint moved its headquarters and many of its employees to another state. With the move went some of Cotton’s customers.
That was when the struggle to hang on began. Guill attempted to sell the building about 10 years ago, but after she didn’t get any offers she decided to keep the restaurant open.
This time, the decision is final, she said. She’s going to put the business back on the market with no intention of reopening.
For Guill, 77, she doesn’t know exactly what she is going to do after retiring.
“I’m just going to take it day to day,” she said. “I want to thank the people of Tarboro for 41 years of supporting me. I’ve enjoyed serving you.”