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'Everyone I’ve spoken to is kind of brokenhearted:' Former Shell's owner reacts to demolition of iconic diner

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One of Catawba County’s most distinctive landmarks is no more.

The demolition of the classic, 1950s-style diner that until two years ago housed Shell’s Bar-B-Q was well underway by Tuesday morning.

The kitchen and storage building had already been removed and workers were ripping apart the dining car from the back.

Blake “Bee” Watts, who owned the diner with his wife Lisa from 1989 until they closed it in 2020, said he was in talks with a Charlotte investor who showed interest in preserving the dining car.

However, the plan did not work out and the deadline to have the building removed passed last week. The new owners of the property will be opening a Biscuitville at the site.

Bee Watts watched Tuesday morning as workers tore down the building where he’d made his livelihood.

“Thirty years of my life right there, there it goes,” Watts said, laughing.

Watts stressed he’s enjoying retirement — “I recommend it for everybody” — while also noting the demolition of the diner marked an end of an era for both him personally and for the community.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to is kind of brokenhearted,” Watts said. “No anger issues or anything. They just say, ‘That’s a shame.’ But it just didn’t work out.”

Shell’s was a mainstay of the St. Stephens community for nearly 70 years. Watts said the restaurant played an important role in the community by hosting fundraisers for individuals in need and supporting institutions like schools and churches.

The founder of the restaurant was Fred Shell.

Kevin Griffin is the city of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.


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