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Dan’l Boone Inn re-opens Friday

By Frank Ruggiero


“D. Boon open’d a rest’rant o’ this tree.”

Granted, that’s not how the story went, but the Dan’l Boone Inn has become synonymous with Boone for many.

After eight months of renovation, the popular restaurant will reopen its doors to the public on Friday, Sept. 22 at 5 p.m. Since the restaurant closed on Jan. 16, manager Jeff Shellman’s answering machine and inbox have been flooded with hundreds of calls and e-mails.

“Most people know why we’re closed but are just asking when we’ll reopen,” he said. “A lot of people are planning their trips around us, so they’re wanting to make sure we’re open before they come up.”

The restaurant received a thorough overhaul, particularly in the kitchen, where 3,000 square feet were renovated and 1,500 square feet were added. The sprinkler system was also upgraded.

“All new electrical, all new plumbing, the kitchen has new air conditioning and exhaust — it’s awesome,” Shellman said. “It’s everything we hoped it would be. The working conditions are going to be so much less crowded and a lot more comfortable and efficient.”

Customers will notice cosmetic work to the dining rooms, such as refinished floors and walls, as well as remodeled and expanded restrooms. The restaurant has also expanded its hours and will serve lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday in November and December. Typically, only dinner is served in the off-season.

Hours aside, the renovations cost more than $1 million — a hearty sum for what folks consider to be a priceless building. Originally the office and residence of Dr. Bingham, one of the town’s prominent physicians, the building has a claim to fame as the first hospital in Boone. Bingham’s patients would often remain on the premises under his care.

When Bingham died, his wife took in roomers from what is today Appalachian State University. In 1959, S.L. and Ann Whitaker of Wilkesboro purchased the building and opened the Dan’l Boone Inn, which soon became famous for its “family style” meals, consisting of a full dinner with three meats and five vegetables, served alongside biscuits, cole slaw, dessert and a beverage.

The Whitakers sold the inn in the early 1970s to Kenneth and Butch Wilcox and their partner, Mr. Furr. Within the next year, Furr’s interest was bought out and Gene Wilson became co-owner and manager.

A state representative, Wilson also owns a two-thirds share of the restaurant. Co-owner Jim Paal invested in 1981, but prior to that, Butch Wilcox died and the owners of the old Western Steer steakhouse in Boone bought his share.

In 1981, Kenneth Wilcox and the Western Steer owners sold out completely to Paal and Wilson. Wilson retired from the manager position, and Paal filled it until 1996, when Shellman was hired into the job.

The Dan’l Boone Inn is located at 130 Hardin St. in Boone. For more information, call 264-8657 or visit www.danlbooneinn.com on the Web.