While my hometown of Rocky Mount has its problems, I’m choosing to look for what’s good about life in this eastern North Carolina city. Here in Part Four of My Rocky Mount Life, I list another five reasons why I enjoy living in the city limits.
#1. The Rocky Mount Walking Trail
I can’t claim to have traveled all 7.1 miles of this trail system that links several of the city’s parks, but I do like to walk the stretch that connects Battle Park and Sunset Park. Crossing over Falls Road on this part of the trail, I can see the sprawling brick structure of the renovated Rocky Mount Mills, former home of the second cotton mill in the state, dating back to 1816.
I enjoy the pretty views of the Tar River along the way. (Some people call the Rocky Mount Walking Trail the Tar River Trail). Plenty of shade is a bonus, too, especially in summer.
#2. Books and Beans Coffee House
At the end of the Rocky Mount Mills campus near the Tar River is the coffee and sandwich shop Books and Beans. Owned by my former Nash Community College colleague Etaf Rum along with her husband Brandon Clarke, this is a delightful place to get a signature sandwich, or, if you’re into it, a specialty coffee.
Etaf and her husband also own the popular Rocky Mount restaurants Barley and Burger and Tipsy Tomato. And, get this, Etaf is famous! She’s the author of the New York Times best-selling novel A Woman Is No Man. Her literary background shows in the names of the sandwiches on the Books and Beans menu: The Bell Jar, the Hemingway, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye. Delicious sandwiches with novel-ty titles!
#3. Gardner’s Barbecue Restaurant
If you like eastern North Carolina cuisine–and I do, I do, I do–there’s nothing like a Sunday dinner, dine in or to go, from Gardner’s. Here in Rocky Mount that Sunday “dinner” is eaten after church around noon, a meal people in other parts of the country call lunch.
At Gardner’s, there’s eastern-style, vinegar-based, chopped pork barbecue. (I could get started on the barbecue wars here, Eastern style versus Lexington… but I won’t.) Gardner’s also features fried chicken, collards, Brunswick stew, and chicken pastry, to name my favorites. Loving both, I get half a dozen corn sticks and half a dozen hushpuppies with my to go orders.
I usually patronize the location closest to my home, the Gardner’s at Westridge Shopping Center, but I’ve noticed the super-duper buffet is at the Highway 301 location. Did I mention the banana pudding?
#4. Lilly & Lane Boutique
Tucked in close to Harris Teeter at Westridge Shopping Center is the cute ladies’ clothing store Lilly & Lane Boutique. I duck in here when I need birthday or Christmas gifts for my young adult daughters. There’s an array of trendy tops, pants, dresses, and accessories to choose from, all reasonably priced. And the sweet girls there do the prettiest complimentary gift wrapping.
Sometimes I even find something for myself to perk up my old lady style.
#5. The Imperial Centre
I could write an entire blog about the Rocky Mount Imperial Centre located downtown on Gay Street: in fact, I intend to say more in my next post about the various features of this premier cultural facility. Today, let’s simply focus on the building that houses the Arts Center, the Children’s Museum, and a community performing theater.
The imposing brick structure now called the Imperial Centre was once a Rocky Mount branch of the Imperial Tobacco Company of Great Britain and Ireland. I’m proud of how this former tobacco complex, built in 1903, was successfully repurposed after Hurricane Floyd destroyed the old Children’s Museum and the Tank Theater in 1999. It’s an example of how the Rocky Mount City Council can act in a positive manner for the good of all.
From downtown to Westridge Shopping Center, there’s a lot to like about my hometown. I’ll be back with more.