Stacey Patton Wallace
Last month, many people in Lee County were filled with joy. Why? Because Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar, Opelika’s iconic and much-loved hot dog/ice cream restaurant reopened after having closed for several months because of COVID-19.
Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar, which will celebrate its 70th birthday in May 2022, announced its closing late last August. People took to social media to express their dismay and sorrow.
As I’ve previously mentioned, my sister-in-law Sandi was born and raised in Opelika, graduating from Beauregard High School. She and my much older brother Mike now live in Texas, and Sandi works at a college. However, she will retire in May 2022, joining her husband in the ranks of the retired.
She was particularly distraught over Mrs. Story’s closing. Sandi has been a big fan of Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar for as long as she can remember. She told me, “If I could, I would come and work at Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar for free.”
She was elated when I told her that Mrs. Story’s had reopened. She, my brother, my niece Brittney and my nephew Tyler will make a run to Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar when they come home to Alabama for Christmas, as they always do. I’m so delighted that this tradition will continue for them.
On the very same day that Mrs. Story’s grand reopening occurred, I was facing a scary procedure: a heart catheter at East Alabama Medical Center, our marvelous hospital in Lee County. Now, for 30 years, I faced 3,000 to 4,000 middle school students, with God’s help, of course.
But I am a big coward when it comes to serious medical procedures, especially one involving my heart. You only get one heart, after all.
While I was waiting in my room at EAMC with Mike, we heard a nurse say, “Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar reopens today.” This proclamation was met with a chorus of: “Yeas, hurrahs and all rights!”
Mike stepped out and told the nurses that we go to church at Central Baptist of Opelika with Mrs. Cora Reames, Mrs. Story’s granddaughter. Miss Cora bought the business from Mrs. Story and ran the restaurant in the 1970s. Her grandson now owns and runs Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar.
Thanks to the Good Lord and my sweet family and friends who prayed for me, my heart cath was normal. Since I had to take it easy for a few days after the procedure, Mike and I waited several days to visit Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar. The plan was to be there when it opened at 11 a.m.
However, that morning, we got off to a late start, eating breakfast while watching not just a Leave it to Beaver episode but also a classic one from The Andy Griffith Show. Have I mentioned that retirement is great?
Anyway, instead of getting to Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar at 11 a.m., we arrived at 12:10 p.m. Oh, my. There was quite a crowd; we had to park next door. Thankfully, there were two lines for orders. Also, we didn’t wait long at all, so kudos to Mrs. Story’s employees for working so hard.
While we were in line, I chatted with several other customers. Miss Ora, a sweet lady, who knew Miss Cora, said she had been coming to Mrs. Story’s for 20 years.
“I was so sad when it closed,” she said. Also, Susan, who is from Opelika, said that she had been coming to Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar for almost 60 years. “Oh, I love this place. Love it!” she said.
Mike and I happily took home our two short chili cheese dogs and chips. I took my first bite. Oh, my two times. My only regret was that I hadn’t ordered a FOOTLONG. I was sad when I finished it. Mike loved his, too. He used to come with his parents from West Point, Georgia, to Mrs. Story’s while he was in single digits. The then Georgia boy knew a great hot dog when he tasted one.
Besides outstanding chili cheese dogs, Miss Cora told me that their milkshakes are made one at a time to order and are the BEST in the area. I want one next time. And there will DEFINITELY be a next time, the Good Lord willing. Miss Cora Reames, this review was for you, with much love.
Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar at 1900 Pepperell Parkway in Opelika is open on Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is closed on Sunday. You’d better get there early.
Mrs. Story’s Dairy Bar makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!
Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in the Observer. Stacey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org