By Richard Rourk
The Dari Ace, located at 1105 Jackson Love Highway in Erwin, is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2020.
According to current owner Kelly Bailey, who first worked at the Dari Ace when she was 14, the restaurant has a long history in Erwin.
“My father, John ‘Junior’ Garland has had this place since 1979,” Bailey said. “My grandfather (Bill Seagroves) started the place and named it ‘Dari Ace’ with that spelling because he was English. Unfortunately, my grandfather died when I was young, but he and my grandmother (Marjorie ‘Margie’ Deaton Seagroves) started this place when it was built in 1960.”
Dari Ace isn’t the only landmark establishment Seagroves had.
“He owned Seagroves Drive In and the Dari King,” Bailey said. “He built the Dari Ace in 1960.”
Although the Dari Ace has been leased out to other people in the previous years, Bailey said she has made sure to restore the establishment to its original state.
“It’s exactly the way that my father ran it, food and everything,” Bailey said. “We make all our own chili and all of our own cakes; it’s just really unique and it has been going for all of these years. The menu is as it was when my father was here running things.”
Bailey acknowledged that her father, “Junior” Garland, who has recently turned 83, is the reason the building stands today.
“My dad has made this place what it is,” Bailey said. “He continues to help out in many ways. He still comes in every morning and fries the bacon, he also puts the flowers in the flower pots around the building. He really enjoys working outside.”
In addition to “Junior” Garland, the Dari Ace is truly a family affair.
“My husband Doug, and my brother Tony help out,” Bailey said. “My granddaughters work here, my son’s girlfriend, Cat, works here. It is a group effort to make this place run.”
According to Bailey, the COVID-19 restrictions have not put a damper on the 60th anniversary celebration.
“We still remain busy with drive-thru and walk-up services,” Bailey said. “We would love to have our dining area, which especially in the morning hours is packed, opened back up, but we are complying with the governor’s request until then.”
The Dari Ace did close down for about a month when COVID-19 first hit the United States, but Bailey took the opportunity to make improvements to the historic building.
“We were closed for about a month, so I ran all new water lines in here; we now have the best,” Bailey said. “We were able to retain almost all of our staff when we opened back up.”
According to Bailey, the Dari Ace has numerous popular dishes to choose from.
“We sell tons of hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and numerous different kinds of milkshakes,” Bailey said. “I’m also selling a ton of strawberry shortcakes right now; it’s a seasonal thing and people love it.”
Bailey hopes to continue to serve great food for a reasonable price to the citizens of Unicoi County for a long time to come.
“We pride ourselves on serving our customers and we look forward to the day when our customers can come back in and have their morning coffee and breakfast,” Bailey said.
You can see the Dari Ace menu including the long list of shakes and seasonal items at the restaurant or you can follow them on Facebook to see a full menu and to keep up-to-date with the popular Erwin landmark.