200 people helped Merritt’s Store and Grill celebrate 85th anniversary

Merritt’s was a popular hang out for the astronauts training at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center , and Fields Neubert said overhearing their lunchtime stories eventually inspired her to become a military pilot.

Fields Neubert said Eben Merritt , the founder of the general store famous around town for its BLT sandwiches, only encouraged her young dream.

“Mr. Merritt was the only adult that I knew when I was growing up in the ‘50s that treated kids like everybody else,” said Fields Neubert, who has now been flying planes for 35 years.

More than 200 people gathered for the store’s 85th anniversary to reminisce about Eben and Ruby Merritt, the founders of Merritt’s Store & Grill on South Columbia Street in Chapel Hill at an event hosted by the Chapel Hill Historical Society .

Robert Britt , the operator of Merritt's, and his wife Robin Britt, are the store’s current owners. Seven months ago, Robin Britt was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Their son, Charles Britt , and his wife Megan Britt said they will move closer to Chapel Hill from Davidson to help run the store.

“We are really excited to be a part of this and carry on Robin’s legacy in a really fun way,” Megan Britt said.

Three generations of Merritts plus the couple’s friends and neighbors were at the historical society’s event.

“We just felt that the public loves it so and they wanted to know something about it,” said Eleanor Morris , treasurer of the Chapel Hill Historical Society.

Scheduled speakers told stories of robbery and of Eben Merritt’s generosity.

The microphone was then passed around to community members who shared stories of the store and its famous owners.

Community members told stories about Eben and Ruby Merritt, but also expressed their sympathy for the family.

Charles and Megan Britt said they are excited about the changes they’ll be making to the store’s operations.

“We expanded hours and we are going to start opening on Sundays,” Charles Britt said.

“We are also going to be trying out some new recipes,” Megan Britt added.

The couple also said they are going to try to use the space more for outdoor events, such as rehearsal dinners and concerts.

“We are trying to market it more as an event venue at this point,” Megan Britt said. “I mean obviously it’s a great place and tells the Chapel Hill story in a great way.”

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