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Cruising into The Suds

Cruising into The Suds

By Sherri Coner

For the first time in the history of The Suds in Greenwood, the April 15 opening mixes reminiscing with technology.

“We are going from pen and paper to the 21st century this season,” said The Suds manager, Susan Wagner of Greenwood.

For instance, waiting for a carhop to appear at your driver’s side window is not your only choice to place an order.

This season, it is possible to simply scan a QR code to place your order, which results in much faster food preparation and carhop delivery.

Convenience of technology

Fans of cruise-ins also hit the technology jackpot.

It won’t be necessary anymore to leave chrome babies and lawn chairs in order to stand in a long line with lots of other hungry people.

“They can place their order online and stay beside their car until their food is ready, then walk up to the window and pick up their order,” Wagner said.

Live music draws a big crowd around The Suds. Pictured here, Hearthstone Crossing in 2021. (Submitted photos)

Alongside popular favorites, such as coney dogs and tenderloins, pizza has been added to the menu by The Suds’ new cook, Dell Seston of Greenwood.

No more Saturday night only visits to The Suds, either.

The new hours are noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, with cruise-ins every Saturday, weather permitting.

People love nostalgia

Many of today’s loyal patrons hung around this Market Plaza icon when it first opened in 1957 as Dog n Suds.

“People love the nostalgia here,” Wagner said. “A lot of them tell me they came here as kids, or they worked here when they were kids.”

One longtime employee, Barbara Brown of Greenwood, and her friend Pam Hurst, now of Florida, showed up at The Suds in the required uniform: black jeans, a white oxford shirt and tennis shoes to carhop for the summer of 1969.

“It was a really, really popular place, ” Brown said. “We made pretty good tips there, too.”

This season, The Suds is open Wednesday through Saturday.

Since that summer, Brown has loyally shown up for Saturday cruise-ins, driving her white 1964 Nova with red interior.

“I can’t wait to get back down there,” she said with a laugh.

Behind the wheel of his gold and white 1957 Ford, Herb Hall of Franklin loyally started driving north in 1964, sometimes only to cruise around the parking lot a few times.

“I sold my Ford in the late 1980s,” Hall said. “But when I finished working on my blue 1964 Chevy Impala Super Sport, my wife and I went up there all the time.”

Sometimes after shopping they swung by The Suds before heading home.

Other times, they walked around admiring the cruise-in cars then ordered a couple of cheeseburgers and a gallon jug of root beer to take home. After losing his wife in 2013, Hall sold the Chevy and stopped making Saturday evening runs to The Suds.

“That’s something me and my wife always did together,” he said.

Maybe this season Hall will be ready to enjoy the classic cars and talk to other car lovers at the cruise-in.

Susan Wagner, manager of The Suds, with Dell Seston, cook, both of Greenwood.

Classic car lovers

For more than six decades, classic car owners like Brown and Hall and countless others, along with classic car lovers have happily gathered around this red- and white-hot spot.

While they discuss car motors and rims, hug old friends and make new ones, music from the 50s, 60s and 70s often blasts in the warm air.

“Those were the good old days,” Brown said. “I still listen to all that music.”

Keeping that magic intact for loyal customers is a serious goal for Wagner.

Already, three bands are booked to perform on the elevated stage.

What Wagner also finds wonderful is that the kids of the kids who grew up loving this friendly place filled with yesterday have also fallen in love with The Suds.

“There’s a Jeep club and there are Mustangs too that come here,” she said. “Now that the kids’ kids are bringing their cars too, we’re getting crowds that can carry on the tradition.”

Owner since 2016, John Wagner of Mooresville.

Through the last 60-plus years, ownership of The Suds has passed through a lot of hands.

A few times, the future survival of The Suds was in dire stress.

But when a community of hotrod and classic car fans love a tangible part of their younger years, they will go to great lengths to save it.

A family affair

When Wagner’s father, John Wagner of Mooresville, bought The Suds in 2016, the beloved business became an instant family affair.

Every season since then, Wagner has worked alongside her dad.

The lack of employees last year kept The Suds’ doors shut for the season.

This year, though, Wagner took on that problem in a big way.

Adding technological ways to provide faster service for more than 300 customers on a crazy busy evening was not her only goal.

Wagner also has big plans for her dad.

“He retired 11 years ago,” she said. “But when he bought The Suds, he was always in there working his butt off. This year, I want him to actually act retired.”

When John Wagner shows up at The Suds this season behind the wheel of his cool blue 1963 Corvette Stingray convertible, “My dad is gonna just enjoy his retirement and get to mingle with everybody else,” Wagner said.

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