Having spent nearly 20 years on the road driving a big rig, Eric Pelton can only guess he’s eaten at hundreds of roadside restaurants.
Some good, some bad, some ugly.
He even spent five years working in food delivery, and, as he got serious about opening his own diner, he would ask restaurant owners about their trade.
“Some of them told me you’d have to be crazy” to open a diner, Pelton said. “And I said it just fits me. I’m about three-quarters nuts, anyways.”
So Pelton shifted gears, and now, as owner of the Buchanan Grill on Main Street, he’s delivering food on plates, not pallets.
“I like to carry on and just have fun with life,” said Pelton, 43, “and this is a good venue to do so.”
The Buchanan Grill is actually Pelton’s second restaurant. Pelton had previously owned The Old Buchanan Family Restaurant, but he was forced to close its doors in February due to problems with a lease agreement on the property.
But Pelton was able get back in the kitchen quickly, opening the Buchanan Grill last March.
No longer alone in a truck cab for hours on end, Pelton hustles around his 1950s-themed diner, waving as regulars walk in and grab a stool at his counter.
Pelton’s restaurant shares its floor space with pharmacy Ransone’s Drugs. For decades, the diner had been a soda fountain in the pharmacy, said Harry Gleason, the town’s downtown revitalization program manager.
As an original jukebox plays songs from the 1950s and ’60s, Pelton will shimmy over to a table and stay to chat with customers after delivering a basket of fries.
“Every time you walk in the door, he’s either singing, dancing or cuttin’ up,” said customer Liz Neely. “If I’m in a bad mood, he can make me laugh every time.”
– Ryan Loew | The Roanoke Times
ZIP Codes: A photographic journey through Southwest Virginia Explore the whole series here, at roanoke.com
24066: Buchanan by the numbers
- Average household income: $56,677
- Population: 4,797
- Households: 2,002
- Average age: 42
- Average travel time to work in minutes: 31
Source: The Nielson Co., 2010