Wandering Billy

News You Can Chews

Eatin’ up all that the local scene has to offer

 

By Billy Eye

“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans. ” Ronald Reagan

Downtown Greensboro has something it hasn’t had since the 1970s, a real, honest-to-goodness, bona fide candy store. Gate City Candy Company is owned by Dan Weatherington, who tells me this sweet spot in the 500 block of South Elm has been a lifelong ambition. “I’ve been wanting to open a candy store since I was a little kid,” he says.

There’s a section reserved for Opal’s peanut brittle, frosted pecans and sponge candies. “It’s made right here in Greensboro,” she says. Opal once worked at Cone Mills she says, and the guy who’s making the candy now got the recipe straight from Opal. “He’d been doing it on the side and turned it into a full-time business,” Weatherington explains. Homemade fudge, chocolate-covered pretzels and nuggets come from Nancy’s Candy Company in Meadows of Danville, Virginia, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. “As soon as we can get things worked out we’re going to produce our own fudgen but all of the chocolates will still come from Nancy’s,” Dan says.

This place is your childhood on display — Pez, Pop Rocks, Smarties, Ring Pops, Jelly Bellys, M&Ms in colors I’ve never seen before including black. They also sell soda pop, a rainbow of Nehis and even bacon-flavored, carbonated sodas. Then there’s my favorite, sour cherry candies, just like the kind I used to buy by the pound at the center city’s original confectionary located in a nook that was eventually repurposed as the entrance to Churchill’s, next to White and Wood.

***

Looking for a distinctively distinguished Sunday brunch experience? A few weekends ago filmmaker Maurice Hicks and I shared a terrific noontime meal, accompanied by a Jazz trio, at the historic Magnolia House downtown on Gorrell Street.

Several issues back, O.Henry magazine published a feature by Grant Britt about this lovely home. It’s the place listed in the famous Green Book where African-American performers stayed from the 1950s into the 1960s when playing gigs in our city. Count Basie, Gladys Knight and the Pips, James Brown, Joe Tex, and a plethora of legendary performers crossed this threshold back in what we euphemistically refer to as “the day.”

It’s a limited brunch menu, but if you’re fortunate enough to find Burgundy Beef Tips over Creamy Grits on the menu, are you in for a treat. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a meal more, and the elegant surroundings doubles the pleasure. I also recommend you take a few moments to get acquainted with the neighborhood around Magnolia House, dotted as it is with some of the finest homes in the city dating back to the turn of the last century, when Greensboro’s toniest families took up residence there. Book reservations online at www.TheHistoricMagnoliaHouse.com.

***

For some time I’ve been meaning to check out A Special Blend coffeehouse on West Market, adjacent to The Art Shop where I spent a great deal of lucre back when I was a working artist. I finally got the opportunity, albeit under unusual circumstances. I was playing a small part in a film scene that took place there, directed by local horror-meister Jaysen Buterin. Also in the scene was Thomas Marvin of the “Jared & Katie in the Morning” show on WKZL. Someone must have told Thomas that the slower an actor delivers his lines, the more screen time he’ll get, but I’m not sure that advice applies when you’re playing a homeless person.

A Special Blend stands apart not only for its fair-trade, organic, Arabica brews served alongside locally sourced pastries and sandwiches, but also because they employ folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities, enhancing their ability to lead more productive and meaningful lives. It’s a very friendly place. Next time you find yourself contemplating a trip to Starbucks maybe you’ll want to give this enterprise an opportunity to caffeinate your day instead.

***

In keeping with the poetic theme of this issue, here’s a bit of doggerel of my own. See if you can spot all of the Greensboro references both past and present.

22-year old Bobby was a hot-blooded lad;

Living in the basement of a Fisher Park pad.

A simple abode, Glascock stove and a toaster;

Over his bed hung an old Joe Camel poster.

Awakening at noon, shaking off crumbs from crackers;

Bobby pulls Cowboy Cuts up, then bangs on his Clackers.

Last night’s Wildflower Witbier left his head in a hurt;

Sliding into Gold Toes, he dons a Ralph Lauren shirt.

A Vicks inhaler jars him awake,

On the counter a Made-Rite sandwich awaits.

A note left by mother has a special request, eh?

“Pick up Liver Pudding down at Bestway.”

Bobby downs an Orange Crush, then lights up a Kent;

With a David Oreck candle to cover the scent.

Searching around for the keys to his car,

He finds them in a box labeled El Moro cigar.

  

Revving up his sleek, Jeep Wrangler, he’s out on a tear;

A hint of Mother Murphy’s butterscotch sweetening the air.

Approaching the boulevard, picking up speed;

He thinks,“Stamey’s hush puppies are what I need.”

Blows past a Thomas Built with the stop sign displayed;

(One town over is where that school bus was made.)

Distracted by a HondaJet streaking the sky;

A dangerous situation escapes Bobby’s eye.

A Volvo semi is jackknifing ahead;

A collision ensues, now Bobby is dead.

A horrible sight, no Bill Magnum scene;

Or anything you’d encounter in this magazine.

TV cameras arrive because 2 Wants to Know;

Breathless reports ensue on The Good Morning Show.

Two mangled vehicles, naught left but to pray;

D. H. Griffin and Mack Trucks hauling the wreckage away.

Sadly, Bobby’s lack of attention and pursuit of frivolity;

Led yesterday to the canceling his Pilot Life policy.

Fond of O.Henry endings? Bobby’s short life of ill

Came to a halt right outside a Biscuitville.

It’s where his mom works, and she fell to pieces;

He’d forgotten to stop and pick up the Neese’s! OH

Billy Eye is the Poet Laureate of nowhere and never will be.

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