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What’s next for iconic Rock Hill civil rights lunch counter after restaurant closing?

Iconic Rock Hill restaurant Five & Dine closes

Rock Hill’s iconic Five & Dine eatery has shut its doors. The Five and Dine is home of the McCrory’s 5 & 10 lunch counter and stools, where “Friendship Nine” were arrested and refused bail during a sit-in protest Jan. 31, 1961.
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Rock Hill’s iconic Five & Dine eatery has shut its doors. The Five and Dine is home of the McCrory’s 5 & 10 lunch counter and stools, where “Friendship Nine” were arrested and refused bail during a sit-in protest Jan. 31, 1961.

Rock Hill’s Five & Dine restaurant has shut its doors.

Five & Dine served diners for about five years from the Main Street site that once was McCrory’s Five and Dime store, which had a restaurant inside. That restaurant is a site of historical significance to the civil rights movement.

Black people were allowed to shop in the store, but could not order or eat at the lunch counter.

On Jan. 31, 1961, 10 African-American men were arrested during a sit-in protest at the lunch counter. Nine of the men refused bail.

The men, now known as the “Friendship Nine,” attracted national attention for their “jail, no bail strategy,” which forced the government to pay the cost of jailing them. Their records were cleared in 2015.

The same lunch counter and stools still stand at the site. Engraved gold plates mark the spots at the resturant where the men sat.

Most of the men were students at all-black Friendship College. They were John Gaines, Willie McCleod, Clarence Graham, David Williamson Jr., Mack Workman, Thomas Gaither, James Wells, W.T. “Dub” Massey and Robert McCullough.

“When we talk about the African-American history of York County, the Friendship Nine and that lunch counter is one of the most important pieces,” Visit York County CEO Billy Dunlap said. “When we’re creating experiences to bring people to York County, that’s one of the vital pieces. Hopefully, it will be preserved.”

Rock Hill Economic and Urban Development Director Stephen Turner said the lunch counter and stools can’t be moved without permission from the city and Rock Hill Economic Development.

He said he hopes to see another restaurant open in the location, keeping the lunch counter open to the public.

“It’s a really important part of the history of Rock Hill, for the people of Rock Hill,” Turner said. “I think it’s important that it remain there.”

President of the Rock Hill NAACP chapter Dorene Boular said she hopes to see another diner in the spot soon too.

“I really hope that someone will come to reopen that and reconnect us with that history,” Boular said.

Efforts to obtain comment from Five & Dine owner Selena Keleman have been unsuccessful as of early Friday. Keleman also owns the Fish Market in Fort Mill.

The Five & Dine posted Dec. 30 on social media it was their final day open at 135 E. Main St.

“We hate to see the restaurant close, and we hope to see some effort to preserve the lunch counter,” Dunlap said. “We hope to see something open in that location. When we bring in groups, the lunch counter is one of the places they want to go. The Friendship Nine is always an important part of those types of tours. We’re sad to see it closed.”

In January 2015, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett brought the Friendship Nine back to court in York County. He apologized to them and cleared their records.

Five & Dine has witnessed other important visitors throughout the years.

Vice-President Joe Biden stopped at Five & Dine for a chocolate milkshake after speaking at a fundraiser in Fort Mill in September 2016. He tipped his server $20.

“You don’t get $20 tips for a single milkshake every day,” bartender and server Jessica Brazell told The Herald in 2016. “Then again, you don’t make a milkshake for the vice president every day.”

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Hannah Smoot reports on money and power for The Herald, covering York, Lancaster and Chester counties. She has been a reporter at The Herald since June 2017. Contact Hannah at 803-329-4068, hgsmoot@heraldonline.com or follow her on Twitter @hgsmoot.

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