For decades the Red Top Cafe was a center of activity in Sandy Ridge, and now after standing vacant for several years the country restaurant and putt-putt location is open again for business.
On Jan. 17, the cafe opened again under the direction of Pam Bullins, who leases the building and putt-putt course from the original owner, Donnie Amos.
Though a few changes have been made to the Red Top complex, the white buildings still display bright red roofs that stand out to people driving down Highway 704 in Sandy Ridge. There is now a welcome sign out front that welcomes people to town, “Home of the Red Top Cafe.” The putt-putt course behind the restaurant has been refurbished, and a small shelter with picnic tables has been added so people can gather outside to eat or chat.
The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and specials are available every day. Amos said the menu now is similar to what it used to be. Bullins noted that the Wednesday chicken and dumplings special is a favorite.
But country cooking isn’t the only thing people can enjoy at the Red Top. At any time during the restaurant’s open hours, people can play putt-putt out back. Bullins said you will see people from the age of five up to their 70s playing the game. The cost is $2.50 for adults and $1.50 for kids.
“I wanted it to be cheap enough that all the people could play,” noted Bullins.
Back in the 1970s it was nothing to see 100 people gathered at the putt-putt course, Bullins said. She is trying to build up interest in that again with a Tuesday night tournament each week at 7 p.m. It is open to all ages, and the cost to enter the tourney is $5.
The Red Top will also host special events on occasion. A customer appreciation day is planned for the fall. In the spring, an Easter Egg hunt attracted 50 or more people to the site.
Of why she decided to re-open the Red Top, Bullins explained, “I needed a job. This was my way of getting a job.”
She worked at another small restaurant that was closed down after six months, but Bullins said Red Top was “the ideal place” and “a better move.” Standing along Highway 704 in Sandy Ridge, the complex is nearly impossible to miss.
The restaurant employs about 10 people, who are all from the area. Bullins, who herself lives five minutes from the restaurant, noted, “It’s good for the community.”
And the cafe is not having trouble attracting business, because it had been a staple in the community for so many years, even attracting people from Winston-Salem and surrounding counties.
“Business is good,” said Bullins. “They come here just because they always did.”
Jackie Hawkins called the Red Top “an icon in Sandy Ridge.” He said, “It was the center of activity.” Hawkins recalls that it was the place for kids and teens to hang out.
Bullins said now they see old customers coming in bringing their children and grandchildren. She even recalls one couple telling the story of how they first met in the game room that used to be open next door.
Donnie Amos said, “It’s amazing to see the children now that were here (years ago) and how they’ve grown.”
He first built and opened the putt-putt course in 1972. Amos said he always enjoyed working with children and “liked to see (them) have fun,” so the Stokes native decided to create a place youth and adults could enjoy in the Sandy Ridge community.
The cafe and arcade were built not long after the miniature golf course. Amos also put up a convenience store. He recalled that he just had an idea at the time to put red roofs on the buildings, which led to the name of the complex.
“A lot of people said, ‘It will never go,’ but I had a tobacco crop to go back on,” Amos noted.
But the restaurant was a success, and it was a frequent employer of North Stokes High School students. “All the children in this community has worked for me,” said Amos with a chuckle.
Amos said he ran the restaurant for 10 years then leased it for many years. He was also farming land during that time. For the past six years or so the Red Top has remained vacant. Amos said he is thrilled to lease the space to Bullins and see the restaurant open again. He can be seen at the restaurant nearly every day.
“She’s doing great,” said Amos of Bullins. “She’s a worker.”
Amos said of people in the community, “They’ve really enjoyed it. They tell us they’re so glad it opened again.”
Years ago the complex also included a game room, but that is not in operation now. The building adjacent to the restaurant also housed square dances and roller skating at various times, and Amos said he would like to see it used for business purposes by some group in the future. A convenience store was also open in the complex years ago, and Amos would like to see it open again as well.
“The population around here is growing,” noted Amos. “I’d like to see something in each building.”
But for now, people are just glad to see the cafe back in business. Bullins said, “It’s an honor to me to get to run this restaurant. It’s where I came when I was little.”
“It’s going back to the old times,” remarked Amos. “Everybody enjoys it.”
Bullins is working to make sure the business gets involved in the community and admits with a laugh that it is not hard for people to convince her to give to programs for kids. This spring the restaurant sponsored the Sandy Ridge Minor Girls softball team, which went undefeated.
“She’s giving back a lot to the community,” noted Bugs Knight, a frequent customer.
But Bullins said the community also gives back to the restaurant. She had one customer who bought a flag and redid the flagpole out front. County employees also frequent the cafe.
She said, “It’s humbling to have the people I’ve got backing me. It really is.”
Amos said of Bullins, “I think she’s here for the long haul.”