Dari-Delite North closing after long run

Published 5:48 pm Wednesday, June 8, 2011

After 60 years of service, the Dari Delite North will be closing up shop.

The end of an era has come. A Clanton culinary institution has turned out the neon lights for the last time.

The Dari Delite North, up on top of the hill on the edge of downtown, closed its doors Tuesday after more than six decades of chili dogs, slaw, and its famous Broaster chicken.

The decision wasn’t an easy one, according to owner Ruth Mims-Short, but it had to be done.

“I cried,” she said. “It’s just time. Some people are emotional about it closing, it’s been here so long.”

Over 60 years long to be exact. The building itself was constructed around 1950, and has been in service ever since. Businessman Newt Popwell owned the land originally, and then Wilson and Louise opened the fast food portion. At the time it opened, it was one of only two fast food restaurants in Clanton.

Mims-Short bought the restaurant in 1984, and has been operating ever since. She made little to no changes to the building.

“I’ve only changed some interior things,” she said. “But I made sure the exterior stayed the same.”

One of the most unique things about the Dari-Delite North is the appearance of the restaurant itself. Everything about the place is a throwback to the 1950s, from the picnic tables overlooking the train tracks out back, to the huge vintage electric sign on top of the building.

“It hasn’t changed,” said Mims-Short. “On purpose. I added something to the back, but primarily it’s just like it was in 1950.”

All of the recipes the Dari-Delite North was known for will be moved to the South location.

As long as it has been open, it has had a special spot in the hearts (and stomachs) of many people in Chilton County. Mims-Short recalled one incident in particular.

“About a year ago, this older couple, probably about my age, came in and went out to the picnic tables,” she said. “They came in and asked who the manager was, and so she went out and [talked to them]. They told her they live up north now, but they came back through Clanton on the way to the beach. They said they used to live here and went to school here, and he asked her to marry him at that table.”

And while it is a fast food landmark in Clanton, it isn’t easy to keep up. Age is getting to both the building, and Mims-Short. She said she felt it was hard to keep up two locations, and didn’t feel like she could put the old store into the hands of just anyone.

“My longtime manager had a heart attack,” she said. “And when you don’t have someone strict, people tend to do things they aren’t supposed to. I’m getting older, and to see about two stores is about too much.”

She was quick to point out that while the Dari-Delite North is closing, the Dari-Delite South will still be in business and will serve the things the north store was famous for.

“People are so loyal to that Broaster chicken,” she said. “They don’t want you bothering it. I’m going to have the same people cooking it, the same pieces of equipment, the same recipe, same everything, just a different location.”

Of all the things that she said she will miss about the Dari-Delite North, the workers who have come and gone through the doors over the years stuck with her the most.

“I’ll miss the people that worked up there,” she said. “You have an opportunity, if people are willing, to add to their lives. I had a manager one time that I took to New Orleans to a workshop. She had never been out of Chilton County before. I had so much fun at watching her be totally amazed that there’s a world out there besides Clanton, Alabama.”