Smithfield Herald

Short’s reopens in Selma

Patrons eat at Short’s Grill last week. The popular Selma restaurant reopened earlier this month.
Patrons eat at Short’s Grill last week. The popular Selma restaurant reopened earlier this month.

Short’s Hot Dogs was a special place for sisters Beth Sitts and Danielle Massey.

They ate there often when they were children; their late father, J.D. Lancaster, was known to stake out a corner booth. And it was the first place the sisters both worked.

That’s why the siblings teamed up to reopen the neighborhood favorite as Short’s Grill. Reopening Short’s fulfilled a lifelong aspiration for them.

“It was a calling – a dream,” Massey said. “A lot of memories were made here.”

Short’s Hot Dogs was a Selma favorite for many years; it was a gathering place for businesspeople, politicians and regular folk. It closed in 2011, and El Charritto Mexican restaurant moved in. After El Charritto closed, Massey asked the building’s owner, Harry Blackley, about the space.

Blackley is a former Selma mayor, onetime Short’s owner and an old friend of the Lancaster family. Six months after Massey’s initial inquiry, Blackley bought all of the kitchen appliances from El Charritto and lowered the rent so the sisters could afford to reopen Short’s.

“He’s known me and my sister our whole lives, and he wanted us to be successful in here,” Massey said of Blackley.

Sitts and Massey worked at Short’s Hot Dogs from their teens through their early 20s. Massey has a degree in business from Johnston Community College and spent years working in banking, auditing and sales. Sitts has experience in food service.

“When the opportunity came, I knew she could do the waiting and cooking part, and I could do the booking,” Massey said.

The restaurant is located at 122 N. Raiford St. in uptown Selma.

The sisters have dealt with their fair share of issues since the grand re-opening earlier this month. The roof has been leaking, and one of the cooks quit on the first day. But the community’s response has more than made up for all of that, Massey said. Mayor Cheryl Oliver has been by a couple of times, and so have police officers and firefighters. Everyone has said they’re thrilled to have Short’s back in the neighborhood, Massey said.

“We’ve been doing great despite our obstacles,” she said. “We’ve been really busy, even without advertising.”

At the new Short’s, the grill is now in the back instead of in the front. The original Short’s had a countertop with bar stools, but the new one does not. The sisters pulled the original Short’s booths out of storage for use in the restaurant.

And don’t worry – the menu hasn’t changed. The hot dogs are still fried, and chili made with the original Short’s recipe is still in the crock pot.

Even though they’re the only current staff members who worked at the original Short’s Hot Dogs, it was important for the sisters to reopen the restaurants as Short’s. They knew keeping the name would mean more to the community.

“We could have came in here and made it the Selma Grill, but nobody would have known,” Massey said.

Members of the community said they are glad to have Short’s back. Retired Selma News owner Dennis Davis said he remembers when Selma Council members used to crowd the back corner table and make important decisions for the town.

“There were a lot of political decisions made in that one place,” Davis said. “It was just hangout to everybody.”

Davis said he went to Short’s for breakfast not too long ago and left happy.

“It’s a lot cleaner, a lot nicer,” he said. “The grill is in the back, and you don’t have a lot of the smell and everything up front. It’s real nice.”

On a recent afternoon, Selma resident Scottie Green said she remembered coming to Short’s with her father when she was a child. She said the food tastes just as good now as it did back then.

“The chili is just like it was,” she said.

Sitts, one of the owners, has a 15-year-old daughter who’s training as a server. She’s the same age her mother was when she started working at Short’s.

“It’s like full circle,” Sitts said.

Short’s Grill serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.