Owner Of Iconic Diner Taking Lighter Role

Tourists and locals who line up each day at Snappy Lunch in Mount Airy can count on the smell of pork chop sandwiches and the man making them.

But after 60 years, Charles Dowell won't be working at the grill anymore.

The 79-year-old Dowell is suffering from early dementia. His family and co-workers moved him from the grill a few months back, and they call it a bittersweet time for a man who spent his life making a pork chop sandwich better than anybody else.

Not being behind the grill doesn't mean Dowell is gone altogether. He still comes in each day to clear tables and keep the ice machine filled, passing the grill where he worked since Andy Griffith was a teenager in Mount Airy.

This time of year, people cup their hands around their faces to peer into the window by the grill to get a glimpse of the man in the white paper hat. Only now, they'll see Junior Ayers, a nine-year employee who prefers a blue bandanna to a hat.