The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday November 29th

30 years at Sutton's

Don Pinney" who manages the restaurant at Sutton?s Drug Store smiles as he talks with a customer at lunch Tuesday. Pinney who expanded the menu to more than 90 items has worked at Sutton?s since he was 14 years old and has been eating there even longer than that.
Buy Photos Don Pinney" who manages the restaurant at Sutton?s Drug Store smiles as he talks with a customer at lunch Tuesday. Pinney who expanded the menu to more than 90 items has worked at Sutton?s since he was 14 years old and has been eating there even longer than that.

Talking about Sutton's Drug Store makes Don Pinney smile the way most people smile when they talk about home.

After 30 years working there" that's exactly what it is.

""My mama would bring me for breakfast when I was little and sit me on the stool down there" said Pinney. As I grew older you know" these four walls became home.""

Both of Pinney's parents worked at Sutton's while he was growing up. When he was 14 years old" he started working there" too.

 Now he's running the restaurant.

""I got kids from 30 years ago" who are not kids anymore" come to see me every football game just to see if I'm still here.""

He described the experience as a big family"" boasting his employees' work ethic and contributions to Sutton's atmosphere.

He said he tries to greet fellow local business owners as one would imagine someone greeting neighbors from their front porch.

Pinney's customers can count on his hearty laugh and genuine smile.

And he can count on ""the old guys"" a group of his regulars that come to the counter every morning. Some have been having the same breakfast, down to number of cups of coffee, for 30 years.

Don's incredible"" said 77-year-old Sutton's regular William Hooke, over his usual meal of grilled cheese and chips. He's a great host.""

To stay true to that description"" Pinney tries to balance tradition with changing consumer demand. He had Coca-Cola Co. adjust the syrup levels of his soda machine to preserve the fountain taste of the Coke he enjoyed when he was a child. But he also has expanded the drug store's menu to include more than 90 items.

""As times change" people's tastes change" explained Pinney. Who thought Sutton's would ever sell veggie burgers?""

Pinney" who is now 44 years old remembers walking down a partially unpaved Franklin Street to get milkshakes from Sutton's when the pharmacist still filled prescriptions by mixing powder and filling capsules instead of counting pre-made pills. The walls were six feet higher back then lined with ceiling-high shelves and sliding ladders.

It was that pharmacy process that led to the counter he now manages. Compounded prescriptions as they are called took a while to fill and customers began to want coffee or soda while they waited. As the pharmacy process evolved explained Pinney" the counter adjusted to become its own destination.

But more than veggie burgers and prescriptions have changed since Pinney ate breakfast at the counter every morning growing up.

There are no more ""Beat Duke"" parades on Franklin Street. The town no longer comes out to see Sutton's new awning. The rent is much higher.

Still some things have stayed the same.

Pinney's son Clay" a senior at Carrboro High School played at Sutton's when he was 5 years old just like Pinney did when he was a child. And in what is becoming family tradition Clay too works at Sutton's.

Though Pinney said some things have made it much harder to have a business on Franklin Street" he has no plans of leaving his home away from home.

""If I have my way" as long as I'm breathing" Sutton's will be here.""



Contact the Features Editor at features@unc.edu.


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