By Carol Vaughn—
After a quick-paced live auction Saturday afternoon, Tammy & Johnny’s restaurant was sold for $176,000 to the owners of a popular Accomack County pizzeria.
Ali and Jessica Celik, of Roma’s Diner & Pizzeria in Nelsonia, outbid several others, including other local restaurateurs, to purchase the property on Route 13 in Melfa.
Auctioneer Larry Makowski of Express Auctioneers conducted the auction, which around three dozen people attended.
Some were interested in bidding on the property, while others were attracted in part by fond memories of time spent at Tammy & Johnny’s.
Denise Topping, of Melfa, who grew up on Dogwood Drive, just down the street from the restaurant, was among the latter, although she said the group she was with was interested in bidding, as well.
“It was walking distance. We did a lot of walking, so evenings, we’d get one of those Tammy Burgers or Johnny Burgers. The fries were just like none other — fresh-cut kind of fries. It just was really a staple here on the Shore,” she said, adding, “The food was consistently good.”
Before the auction’s 1 p.m. start, people were seen posing for photographs next to the restaurant’s iconic red and yellow sign.
Inside, as potential bidders inspected the building, a red, white, and blue menu board could be seen, still advertising combo meals for $5, and a stack of Tammy & Johnny’s familiar orange and brown chicken buckets sat on a shelf in a back room.
As is the case with many local restaurants, a framed clipping of a local newspaper article about the eatery hung on the wall — the headline was “The Cadillac of Comfort Food.”
Additionally, two thank-you notes from special education classes and teachers at Kegotank Elementary School remained tacked to the dining room’s rear wall — one dated 2005 and the other 2006.
The classes had made field trips to the restaurant, where the owners provided each student with a kid’s chicken leg meal and a drink.
“Thank you for opening your hearts, and your kindness to our children,” one note read in part.
It went on to say, “Your attitude shows you care, and your willingness to help out speaks so much about the people you are, and the business you run.”
The restaurant for decades was praised by locals and travelers alike for its fried chicken, as well as being known for cheesesteak subs, hamburgers, and more.
Ronnie Edwards opened the restaurant with his wife, Shirley, in 1967.
The business was named for their two children and the family operated it for half a century.
Edwards had previously worked for the C&P Telephone Company and once met someone who found success selling doughnuts. He thought he could do something similar, and decided to open a stand selling hamburgers (for 19 cents apiece), French fries, and milkshakes.
Fried chicken — the item for which the eatery became best known — was added to the menu later.
An eat-in dining area was added to the building in the mid-1970s.
The Edwards retired. Then, the restaurant was closed in March 2018, needing structural repairs.
Shirley Edwards died in November 2018 at age 83.
Edwards, now in his late 80s, did not attend the auction.
Celik’s purchase includes the 2,500-square-foot brick restaurant on one acre, a paved parking lot, and a rental home behind the restaurant.