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"Don't Hate The Foodie, Hate Your Tastebuds"

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sitting on History; A visit to Hawk's Nest Cafe, Kinston, NC

In the spirit of Black History month, both celebrating accomplishments of African Americans as well as remembering the Civil Rights Movement, I wanted to highlight a cafe in the middle of no man's land, Hawks Nest Cafe. This cafe is located in little ol' Kinston, NC about 30 minutes away from where I grew up in Mount Olive, NC. Note, there are people in NC that don't know where these 2 towns are, so that should let you know how small they are.

While I was home for Thanksgiving on a much-needed trip to visit my friends and family, to avoid wasting money, I was using my mom's car. Luckily her work schedule worked out well with everything that I had planned, but being a business owner means that although you have the freedom to take off whenever you want, there is ALWAYS work that needs to be done. So, of course, I spent a couple days working on a few projects so I wouldn't be too swamped when I got back home. But just a little bit; I definitely enjoyed my trip. My mom had just started a new job and was training in Kinston, so what I would do is drop her off in the morning and work while she was at training. Don't worry, I am not just babbling. I am actually getting to the point now. Patience people! Since I needed wifi to work, I would work at different locations, and that is how I found Hawks Nest Cafe. See, I told you I was getting to the point!

One morning I dropped her off and I was really hungry for some GOOD breakfast, so I proceeded to google cafes and diners. To no surprise, I found very little options, but on the bright side, Hawks Nest Cafe was walking distance from where my mom was working. I decided to give it a try, and I am so happy I did! The food was really good, and the customer service was even better. The place was very quaint. It had an old-timey general store feel to it. The front was the cafe area, and in the back, they sold custom items such as their famous Hawk Sauce, Hawks Nest T-Shirts, small trinkets, and local brands of jams, pickled veggies, etc.

I ended up working out of there a couple days, and each time I tried something different. Everything that I and my mom tried was good! The pictures don't do any justice, but if you're ever in Kinston for whatever reason that could be....you gotta try it out! Over the course of my visits, I accidentally walked out without paying at one visit and left my debit card at another. Me-oh-my Lauren, get it together! I just figured it must have been meant for me to keep going back so I could find out about its history.

I know you're wondering, how in the world does all of this relate to Black History Month? Well in 1921, before it was called Hawks Nest Cafe, it was called Standard Drug #2, a local segregated pharmacy and lunch counter. Then in the early 1960s during the heat of the sit-in movement, two sit-ins were organized by three high school students Samuel Dove, Curtis Henderson, and Thomas Henderson. As a result of the sit-ins, Henry Sundreth, the owner at the time decided that he was going to desegregate his business. Standard Drug #2 became the 1st business in Downtown Kinston to not only offer non-segregated dining but also to hire African Americans to serve food and work the counter. This place helped shape a much-needed change in Lenoir County, NC. 

In 2015, The National Register of Historic Places added the store to the list of 18 National Register of Historic Places in NC that were added that year. Today, although it is now a different business and has endured some renovations, Judy Johnson the owner decided to keep the history alive. When you visit the cafe the layout is still very similar to the original, and you can still sit on the original bar stools and the original counter where the sit-ins took place. I sat at this place for days not knowing the rich history that was literally right beneath me. 

Thank you, Judy Johnson, for continuing to preserve the history of my community, 
and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in NC.

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