Brooks Sandwich House Reopens: 'Here's The Beginning Of Something Good'
They started showing up at 6 a.m., four hours away from when the door would open, and even longer away from when anyone would be eating lunch. Antonio Diaz was so insistent on being one of the first in line at Brooks Sandwich House that he even beat the employees there Saturday.
“They clapped when they saw the early birds,” Diaz said. “They started clapping for us. We should be clapping for them.”
Diaz was at the front of a line that snaked its way around the block of Brevard Street in NoDa, waiting for the doors of the much-loved restaurant to open for the first time in nearly two months.
It has been closed since co-owner Scott Brooks was shot and killed Dec. 9 in an attempted robbery. Police are still searching for two men seen on surveillance tape as Brooks opened the restaurant at about 5 a.m., and a reward for information leading to an arrest is now up to $21,000.
The people came for each other and for David Brooks as much as the food. David is Scott Brooks’ twin brother, and he admitted that he questioned whether to reopen the place that has been a NoDa staple since 1973.
“When something like this happens, it's just … it's devastating,” David Brooks said. “And you have absolutely no idea what you're going to do the next moment. But after several days, my daughter, she's my manager, Lauren said, ‘Daddy, they can beat you, but they can't beat you down. So let's get back with it.’
“So, here's the beginning of something good.”
The new beginning means a fresh mural on the back of the restaurant, Scott Brooks’ face next to his favorite phrase, “Too blessed to be stressed.” It also means new hours for Brooks – it’s open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; the restaurant will no longer serve breakfast.
Roy Segee leaned against the building about 30 minutes before Brooks opened, reminiscing about how he first came to the restaurant the second day it opened in 1973 and what happened when he first brought his wife there.
“We’re gonna eat there?” she asked him, looking at the squat, square building that has no seating other than a couple picnic benches.
“Honey, don’t look at the building,” he told her.
“And when I brought the food out and she ate it, she said, ‘OK, I’ve got you covered,’” Segee said. “It’s the best chili in the world.”
The scent of grilled burgers began filling the air shortly before 10 a.m., and those in line started plotting their orders.
“Oh, I’m thinking about getting a good ol’ double-cheeseburger with chili,” said Harold Cherry, who said he’s been coming to Brooks for 30 years. “I really enjoy the food. They’ve got some of the best hot dogs and hamburgers. They’ve got the best food in Charlotte, I think.”
Said Phillip Bowen, the second person in line: “We wanted to be here for this. The food’s good. The atmosphere’s good. Just love the place and the atmosphere. You know, we’re originally Charlotteans, so this is a staple for us, for sure.”
Brooks is the kind of place that brings people all over Charlotte together – black, white, working-class, affluent. They were all in line Saturday morning, all talking and all there to support David Brooks as he made his way down the line shaking hands and giving hugs.
“It's just fabulous that people come out on an occasion like this and fellowship and get something good to eat,” David Brooks said. “You know who your good friends are -- and you make more. And that's what this is all about.”
Added Diaz: “It’s not always about the food, but it’s just about the community. I just hope they really feel a thrill and it brings them some joy.”
As Brooks smiled and thanked everyone he could, it seemed clear that it had.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” he said. “I just appreciate everybody turning out. I hate the circumstances, but I love the purpose.”
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