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Wade's was founded on March 6th, 1947 by Wade and Betty Lindsey when they purchased a small grocery store on South Pine Street called Mrs. May’s Grocery. In addition to selling groceries, there was also a small lunch counter where hot dogs, sandwiches and soup were sold to the workers from Draper Corporation and Duke Power. Sales for the first day of business for Wade and Betty Lindsey were $39.00!
It is our understanding that not long after going into business that the workers from Duke Power asked Betty Lindsey to cook a hot meal for them to enjoy for lunch. In response to this request, Betty Lindsey began to cook and offer her home-style meat and vegetable meals. In the early days there was no choice of what you got on your plate. Betty would prepare the plates and set them on the counter for customers to pick up. Every plate was the same. The workers would come by at lunch and select one of the pre-prepared plates of food. Some of the same Duke Power workers that ate at Wade’s in 1947 still eat at Wade’s today. They have told us how grateful they were back then to have a place where they could get a home cooked meal instead of having to eat Vienna sausage or cold sandwiches for lunch.
At our 50th year anniversary celebration in 1997 a Mr. AJ Wingo told us of how he and Pop Wade Lindsey stood in front of the small wooden grocery store in early 1948 and Pop Wade asked him this question:
“ Wingo, you see that gully? If I fill it in and put a restaurant there do you think people will eat with us?”
The question sounds like it came straight from a movie script, but we believe it happened. We assume the answer was yes because in the 1949 Wade's moved from the one room wooden frame grocery store into a newly constructed cinder block building. Although the home cooked meals continued as part of the menu, Wade’s was also known for great sandwiches and short-order items. Especially popular was the Pork Bar-B-Que that Wade Lindsey cooked daily over hickory wood in his own specially designed BBQ pit. In fact, the sign on the new building said, Wade's Bar-B-Que. Up until 1977 you would always find a stack of hickory wood beside the building ready to be used to cook the pork hams.
In 1955 the cinder block building was enlarged to accommodate the growing business. During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Wade’s was a typical drive-in restaurant where, in addition to inside seating, customers were also served in their car by "Curb Hops". Dan Fuller was probably the most colorful curb hop during this time. Dan worked at Draper Corporation, which was located across the street, during the day and at Wade’s at night. As Dan would cross the parking lot carrying trays of BBQ sandwiches, fries and drinks he would yell out to waiting customers, “be thinkin’, I’ll be right with you!” If you visited Wade’s on a typical weekend night during this time you would find a parking lot full of teenagers hanging out with their friends. A constant stream of cars full of teenagers and young adults were always pulling into the parking lot to see who was there. Many of these drivers would simply rev their engines and cruise through the parking lot. Then they would head out to their next destination which might be the Beacon, the Varsity, the Sugar & Spice, the Steeple or another local hang out. The movie American Graffitti might best depict the type of atmosphere that might be found at Wade’s Bar-B-Que on a busy Friday or Saturday night in the early 60’s.
The history of Wade’s would not be complete without the mention of the fact that Wade’s sold beer during the early days and lots of it. On a typical Friday night Wade Lindsey would stock the coolers to the rim and ice down barrels full of Blue Ribbon, Falstaff, Black Label and Schlitz. Around 300 cases of beer were sold per week during the early sixties. The mix of beer and teenagers would often provide for the makings of a little excitement on weekend nights at Wade’s.
Another important part of Wade’s during these early years was the Wade’s “Dope Wagon” Many southerners used to refer to soft drinks as dopes and therefore the name Dope Wagon was given to the concession wagon that Wade’s operated inside the Draper plant. In the early 1950’s Wade Lindsey’s own father, also called Pop, used to push the Dope Wagon through Draper twice a day. Everything from aspirin to food and drinks was sold from this cart. Later, the “Dope Wagon” was updated so that it could be pulled through the plant via a golf cart. Around 1970 when, due to the introduction of a vending service inside the plant by new owners North American Rockwell, the Dope Wagon ceased operation.
In 1977, after Wade Lindsey's retirement, Hamp Lindsey and Carole Lindsey Miller, son and daughter of Wade & Betty Lindsey, took over the operation of Wade's. Immediately, they began to re-focus the direction of Wade’s from a drive-in restaurant that sold beer to a more family oriented restaurant. The sale of beer was discontinued on June 3, 1977, the day Hamp and Carole took over the operation of the restaurant. The discontinuing of beer sales has, over time, proven to be the right decision. Back then it was not a popular decision with many of the workers from Draper Corporation who had grown accustomed to ending their work day by stopping by Wade’s for a beer before heading home.
It wasn't long after Carole and Hamp took over that the now familiar Wade's Logo was created. The logo was created by Evelyn Carson Addis and was designed to resemble a Wade's Yeast Roll. Before Wade’s was known for its Veggies, it was the Homemade Yeast Rolls that people talked most about. To this day, Wade’s produces it’s famous yeast roll by hand for over 2000 customers each day. The Wade’s logo is one of the most identifiable logos in Spartanburg due to Wade’s popular billboard campaign that started around 1995.
By the early 1980’s Wade’s had shed it’s image as a hang out for teenagers and a place to buy beer and was becoming known as a place to bring the whole family for a great meal at a reasonable price. College Nights were one of Hamp & Carole’s first promotions. Every Tuesday Night students from local colleges (especially Converse and Wofford) would descend on Wade’s for fried chicken and home cooked vegetables at a cost of $2.50 per plate. The supper crowds began to grow and the young students seemed to invigorate the atmosphere at Wade’s.
As business began to grow, Wade’s was busting at the seams and in 1985 Wade's opened a second restaurant in the Pinewood Shopping center just 3 miles north on the same street as the original Wade’s. It was an immediate success, but took its toll on the smaller original restaurant. In 1989 it became evident that the best business decision would be to close the smaller original location and concentrate on operating the larger Pinewood restaurant. For those folks from Pacolet, Glendale, Ben Avon and Camp Croft, who spent so much time at the original Wade’s growing up, it was not a popular decision, but one that they accepted.
Around 1990 Wade's began to narrow its focus towards the meat and vegetable area of the menu and Wade's began to grow by leaps and bounds. It was also about this time that Wade’s began using their slogan: "Have You Had Your Veggies Today?"
Around 1993 the slogan was changed to the colorful graphic where the V in veggies forms the lower half of a carrot. This colorful graphic was designed to emphasize Wade’s focus towards serving delicious “Southern Cooked” meats and vegetables.
Today Wade's is recognized as the place to go in Spartanburg to “have your VEGGIES"
In 1997 Wade’s celebrated 50 years in business. We were fortunate that Wade Lindsey was still with us to celebrate this milestone in Wade’s history. Sadly, in July of 1997, only 4 months later, Wade Lindsey passed away. There is satisfaction in knowing that he lived to the wonderful age of 87 years old and was able to watch the business that he started grow into a Spartanburg landmark.
Somewhere around 1995 Wade’s put up a comical billboard with the slogan, “Bean” Me Up Scottie. Little did we know this was the beginning of what would become Wade’s next claim to fame in Spartanburg, its humorous billboard campaign. Since this billboard was posted in 1995, Wade’s has posted over 70 billboards with a comical theme based on vegetables or other food items. Slogans like “Earvis has left the building…and gone to Wade’s!” with an ear of corn dressed as Elvis to “We come in PEAS” with a group of alien looking creatures standing in front of their “Pea Pod” shaped spaceship have entertained Spartanburg residents for over 9 years now. In fact, we sometimes wonder if Wade’s is known more for its great southern cooking or its comical billboards. We like to think that it is both.
Make sure you visit our billboard page to see more Wade's billboards and to find out how to send us your billboard idea.
Through the years our customers have continued to remind us that the reason that they visit Wade's so often is the friendliness of the staff, the speed of service and the quality and taste of the food. It is with this in mind that our staff created the following mission statement:
WADE'S MISSION STATEMENT
The staff of Wade’s would like to thank you for visiting our Web Site and we invite you to visit our family restaurant when in Spartanburg for the best home cooked Veggies in the Southeast.