If Dick Hewitt is not seated in the last seat at his cafe’s bar, his regulars notice. He sits on the same worn, black vinyl-covered stool every day, keeping an eye on the staff and conversing with customers at Dick’s Cafe on North Main Avenue, between Newton and Conover. If Hewitt’s seat is already taken when he enters the small dining room, customers will vacate it for him.
Hewitt has spent the last 40 years running the restaurant, which he claims serves the best grits in town. He announced his retirement on Monday, the day he turned 84. It’s self-evident, he stated. “I’m unable to do a lot of things that I used to, particularly at the cafe,” Hewitt explained. He couldn’t trust just anyone with the business. There were several buyers interested, but Hewitt had his sights set on only one: Cherie Fish, the cafe’s manager. She washed dishes, worked in the kitchen, and occasionally took on serving shifts to supplement her income.
Hewitt, who purchased the cafe in 1981 with no prior restaurant experience, was constantly on the lookout for people he could rely on. Fish was one of them from the start. Hewitt attempted unsuccessfully for years to convince her to work for him full-time. “At first, I was unable to convince her to work full-time,” he explained. “I pleaded with her to give it a shot here. ‘You’re going to make more money here,’ I said.” She began serving eight years ago and has not stopped. She eventually rose to the position of manager, much to Hewitt’s delight. “This is the best choice I’ve ever made,” Hewitt stated. “I can’t fathom what the place would be like without her.”