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Little Midget celebrating 60 years

Posted: April 19, 2018 5:06 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Drawing of the original building.

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Saturday marks a major milestone for a local small business with a big following.

The Little Midget, owned by the Blackmon family since 1958, will celebrate 60 years in business in Camden with a special anniversary gathering and Classic Car Cruz-In at Camden’s Town Green from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday. The event will feature live music by Landslide, lots of cool classic cars, the Chase Elliott #9 Race Simulator, a corn hole tournament, free pet nail clipping courtesy of Spears Creek Veterinary Clinic, face painting and more.

Owner Allen Blackmon says the event is not only a commemoration of the business, but a way to say “thank you” to the community that has been so good to his family for three generations.

“I’m getting ready to turn it over to a third generation,” he said, referring to his sons, Ethan and Cody Blackmon. “But I still enjoy what I do. What keeps me here are our customers. I see people I grew up with every day. If you really get right down to it, there are four generations of families who have been coming here.”

Blackmon’s parents, Ira and Evelyn Blackmon, started the restaurant in 1955, renting a small building on the site where the present restaurant is now, on Market Street in downtown Camden. Three years later, Ira Blackmon was able to buy the building and they never looked back.

“The restaurant has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember,” Blackmon said. “I probably got my first work experience in it when I was about 8 years old.”

Blackmon said he would walk to the restaurant from Pine Tree Hill Elementary School every day after school. At one point, he said he noticed a bicycle out back but never gave it much thought. Then report cards came out; young Allen had done pretty well.

“Back then, your parents knew what was going on at school before you ever even got home,” he said.  “I remember that day I got to the restaurant and my dad said, ‘I hear you did pretty good on your report card. Go out back; I got something for you.’”

As it turned out, it was the bicycle Allen had noticed earlier.

“He had bought it, used, from the Western Auto Store across the street, for something like $5,” Blackmon said. “He had fixed it up and put a basket on it.”

But there was one more surprise.

“I asked him if I could take the basket off, and he said, ‘no, you’re going to need that for work,’” Blackmon said.

From that point on, every day after school young Allen would use that bike to deliver take-out orders around downtown for the restaurant.

“I probably didn’t make much -- a few pennies here, a nickel or something there -- but at the end of the week I had enough money to go the movies, or go get an ice cream or something,” he said. “I learned to work and that was my first experience with the business.”

Later, when Allen and his wife, Delaine, who, sadly, passed away in 2014 got married in 1988, she started working in the business and would eventually take over the day-to-day management of the restaurant; Allen and Delaine would buy out his parents in 1998.

Yet, although the business has grown, it has changed very little -- and that’s exactly how the Blackmons want it. They built a larger building in 1970 and added a dining room in 1998, but they have not deviated from the original idea of drive in style burgers, hot dogs, fries and sandwiches. In fact, not only do they still use recipes Blackmon’s mother invented in the 1950s, there are patents pending on several of those recipes, including the chili and coleslaw recipes, he said.

“We aren’t trying to compete with fast food chains,” he said. “We’re just keeping a tradition going -- we like it that way; it works for us; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

They do incorporate some modern touches -- social media, for example -- but the rest of the business is basically the same as it ever was, he said.

Ultimately, it’s about good food and family tradition, he said.

“We have a saying, if you like our food, tell other people; if you don’t like it, tell us,” he said.


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