lee gartside
ANOTHER FAITHFUL CUSTOMER — Lee Gartside of DeLand sits in his personal booth at Hunter’s Restaurant May 29, the longtime eatery’s final day in business. As he has most days for years, Gartside arrived Sunday morning at 5:30, 90 minutes before opening time, to help make the first batches of coffee. Gartside dressed neck to toe in tie-dye, which Hunter’s had adopted as its brand when it moved to the East Rich Avenue location. BEACON PHOTO/ELI WITEK

BY TOM FLEISHEL

I just had my last delicious breakfast — ever — at Hunter’s Restaurant this past Friday. The eggs were perfect, the bacon crisp, not greasy, the buttery grilled biscuits were flaky, and my coffee cup was kept full.

I was sitting where I could see behind the counter and prep area, and watched as the workers were busy, but happily chatting with customers. The restaurant was full.

It was surreal as I etched the views into my memory for the last time. I remembered going to their location across the street, with my dad, in the early 1960s and early 1970s, when he was the manager of the Athens Theatre.

We also loved going to the locally owned doughnut shop next to the theater, which later became Ed’s place, where the pinball machines were always clanging.

The owners of Hunter’s are moving to Tennessee and sad to see them move on, but business is business. So, now there’s going to be a Vietnamese restaurant going in where Hunter’s was.

Not that I’m against “foreign” cuisine, but who’s going to step up and provide good old, down-home cooking for breakfast and lunch that’s not part of a chain restaurant?

Where else can we sit at a table normally reserved for coach Lee Gartside, who was my coach at Dempsie Brewster School? Over the years, many groups had their special table in the back, like Judge Bunky Blount and Ed Sanders and, of course, the Gus Gibbs crew.

We don’t want our main street to look like Any Other Town, USA, morphed into a cookie-cutter view of nationally recognizable names.

The vestiges of Old DeLand are rapidly disappearing, but thankfully we still have intact many of the historic buildings, the courthouse, the Athens, etc.

So, we beg of you entrepreneurial restaurateurs, please step up and take it on. Establish another hometown-legacy eatery with hometown cooking and familiar faces we can call our own! We’ll support you in every way.

— Fleishel lives in DeLand.

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