“I was obviously very pleased, and it made my wife and I feel very good that we were thought of enough to be recognized for what we feel like all our hard work was for,” Woodard said. “This was like a benefit on the side because our main focus has been to serve the people of Chapel Hill.”
Woodard began the tradition of hanging photos around the store of customers enjoying their meals.
“That’s part of the legacy he’s left; to be on the wall you have to be with John in a way, so he’s a big part of the history around here,” said Clay Pinney, a worker at Sutton’s for 11 years.
Pinney spoke highly of Woodard and said he was like family.
“He deserves it, there’s no question about that,” Pinney said. “In the mornings people wait for him to come in to work, so now that he’s retired he has to have like five breakfasts.”
Sutton’s history and its long tradition both contribute to the uniqueness of the Franklin Street establishment.
“What’s special about it is you can have one family with four generations that have all eaten here before,” Pinney said. “Some people can’t have a game day without coming here first because it would break their tradition.”
When asked what makes Sutton’s unique, UNC men’s basketball player Kennedy Meeks said, “It feels like home, which might be cliche, but it’s personal and they always welcome you here.”
Women’s basketball player Erika Johnson said she doesn’t even have to order because they have her order memorized.
“It feels like a family, not to be cheesy, but it really does because everyone knows everyone and the staff has been here for so long,” Johnson said.
Sutton’s has been on Franklin Street for 92 years, making it one of the oldest establishments on the street, and customers say they are confident it will remain.
“I think it’s been here for so long because of the traditional setup of the diner,” Johnson said. “They seem to always be renovating and updating to suit the needs of their customers.”
Employee Clint Goodwin said when customers come in once, they always come back.
“There’s not much of this kind of personality anywhere else, you come in here and if you don’t necessarily know who you’re talking to, it still seems like a friend,” Goodwin said.
Woodard said Sutton’s means a lot to him and the award is a big honor.
“It’s been my life for the last 38 years and it will always be a part of me,” Woodard said.