Ferrell’s Hamburgers of Hopkinsville, new with stainless steel walls and green neon lighting, is ready to reopen on Valentine’s Day.
No one could appreciate the comeback from a fire quite like 85-year-old Jo Nell Edwards.
“It’s beautiful,” Edwards said Thursday afternoon, standing inside the newly restored restaurant for a brief, quiet moment while a crowd huddled out on the sidewalk for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.
“I will be cooking on the second shift,” she said. “I don’t like to take a day off but they usually make me take off one day a week.”
Edwards has worked at Ferrell’s for a combined 30 years. She first wore a Ferrell’s apron in 1958, so she’s been around the place longer than most of the loyal customers who came out for the ribbon cutting. In fact, she was born just a year or so before Ferrell’s open in 1936.
The landmark restaurant had been closed since a fire gutted the 647-square-foot building on July 4.
Owners Phillip and Carolyn Ferrell have said it was not an easy decision to reopen. Both of them are old enough to retire. But Phillip didn’t want to quit the tradition that his late parents, David and Cecil Ferrell, started. They opened the restaurant during the Depression.
To celebrate the restaurant’s second act, the owners created a silent auction fundraiser for the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library. Several people combined their money for the winning bid of $2,750 and won the right to the first burgers off the grill. Phillip was set to cook for them after the ribbon-cutting. The group included Judge-Executive Steve Tribble, Magistrate Darrell Gustafson, Holly Hampton, Jeremy Stevenson, Cary Bruce, Jeremy Luciano, Chuck Henderson and Kentucky New Era publisher Brandon Cox.
The Hopkinsville-Christian County Leadership class will use the money from the burger auction to renovate the patio between the library’s first and second floors.
No other restaurant has been open in Hopkinsville as long as Ferrell’s. And other than Waffle House, no other place in town stays open 24 hours.
Through the years, very little has changed on the menu except prices. The mainstays are hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chili and pie. People get burgers to-go by the sackful. In the middle of the night, factory workers just getting off their late shift might sit next to women in evening gowns who are headed home from a party.
The morning crowd includes a group of regulars who eat eggs, bacon and toast. They linger over coffee and gossip.
But there’s more to the restaurant’s appeal than the food.
“People tell us they come to see us, to talk and have a good time,” Edwards said. “That’s what they like.”
This story was originally published on The Hoptown Chronicle.