Around 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday with the tables about three-quarters full, the waitstaff at Wynn’s Diner stops as a woman opens the door. It was longtime customer Betty Bearse.
“Hey, Miss Betty,” a couple of the waitresses said, each throwing their hands up just before they start moving again. One came over and hugged her.
Bearse, 87, had her usual smile and went to sit at her usual booth. She also ordered her favorite dish, the city ham and eggs plate.
“I’ve been coming here before the Wynns owned it. They’ve always had great food here and great people,” Bearse said.
She said coming to the diner gives her a chance to get out of her house.
“I plan to keep on coming here until I’m not allowed to drive anymore,” she said.
The Wynns, Stephen Wynn and his wife, Melissa, officially opened Wynn’s Diner in 2013 at what was once the Mountain Diner. Prior to the Mountain Diner, the building, just beside the Walgreens and Sonic on New Leicester Highway, was the home of a Huddle House restaurant.
Any of the current customers can run down this history. They can also give account of the fare.
All in the family
Susan Taylor and her husband, Don, said they come to the diner about four times a month.
“The food is always good, and everyone here is always so friendly. They all know us,” Susan Taylor said. “We love the breakfast plates, and that’s what we usually get. But my husband sometimes gets lunch plates, too.”
But everyone, including Bearse, loves the family atmosphere of the diner.
“It’s so great to see the whole Wynn family in here each day. And the cook over there, Jordan (Crigger), that’s Tracey’s son. It’s just a great family diner,” she said.
Tracey Crigger is a longtime waitress who started working at the diner eight years ago.
“I’ve been here forever and always will be,” she said. “I’ll probably just die along with the building.”
The owners’ son is 12-year-old Caleb Wynn, who has worked his family’s restaurant since he was 5. His first job that he loved doing every single day was dusting the lamps, his mother, Melissa, said.
“My son does everything now, and he even cooks,” Stephen Wynn said of his son, who was 5 when the business opened.
Caleb, a student at Captain Gilmer Christian School in Fletcher, said he enjoys cooking the most.
“I like cooking eggs over medium and also cooking omelets. I can cook just about anything,” he said.
Stephen Wynn said the diner’s best-selling items are its signature pancakes.
“We have pineapple upside down pancakes, banana pudding pancakes and Cinnabon pancakes. I think they all sell so well because no one else in town has them,” he said.
The diner serves breakfast all during working hours from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and also serves lunch. Highlighting the appetizers list is the cheesy hash-brown bites. Lunch items include the diner’s signature gourmet burgers, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, BLTs and also platters like chopped steak and fried white fish.
Surviving during the pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in the spring of 2020 and restaurants statewide were forced to be closed to inside dining, the Wynns had to shut down the diner.
For five months, business was nearly at a standstill, Stephen Wynn said. The diner couldn’t serve guests inside, but it did provide curbside pickup to keep the business going.
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On Aug. 6, 2020, after restrictions were eased and restaurants were once again allowed to have indoor dining, Wynn’s Diner opened its doors to the public. Greathouse and fellow waitress Crigger said they both will never forget that day.
“I remember getting a call from Stephen saying to come back on Aug. 4, and we were all so happy,” Greathouse said. “The biggest thing I remember is coming in and seeing how much dust had gathered on the tables and counters. That showed how long we had been gone, because we keep it clean every day.”
“It was so weird coming back in here and coming back to work,” Crigger said. “We all just couldn’t wait to get back in here again.”
Stephen Wynn said almost all of his entire staff came back.
“It was great to see,” he said.
Waitress Amber Greathouse, who, without any family, moved from Kansas City to the Asheville area 10 years ago, was especially happy to be back to normal.
“The customers,” she said, when asked what the favorite part of her job is. “They are my extended family. I get to see the same people and the same faces every day. I’ve gotten to know them and they’ve gotten to know me. Seeing them each day makes my day.”
“When I wake up in the morning knowing that I’m heading to work, I’m just happy because I know I’ll be chit chatting with our regular customers each day and also new ones,” she said.
From retail to hospitality
When Stephen Wynn moved from Florida to North Carolina to get into the restaurant business, he said he had no idea what it took.
“I was first in retail, working at Dollar Tree, before I took over this place,” he said. “The guy I worked with at Dollar Tree was the former owner of the Mountain Diner. He had three restaurants at the time, and he wanted to get rid of one, so he called me up and asked if I’d be interested in taking over the diner. I was working probably 90 hours a week in retail, so I was ready for a change. I didn’t really know what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to work for myself,” Wynn said.
Diving into the restaurant business was a challenge, he said.
“It was hectic, because I was leaving everything I knew. I had run retail stores before but never a restaurant,” he said.
His family provided the much-needed support to keep the restaurant going, he said.
“My wife had another job, but she’d come in and help out after she got off work. And my son (Caleb) also started helping out,” he said.
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And since he’s learning everything there is to know about the business, he’s wanting to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
“Yep, I want to own this place someday,” he said.
“That’s our goal is for him to become the owner and take over,” Melissa Wynn said.
Address: 604 New Leicester Highway, Asheville.
Hours: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.
More information: Wynn’s Diner’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wynnsdiner).
Phone: (828) 225-3772.
Plan ahead: “It’s hit or miss on the weekends,” waitress Brooke Towles said. “Some days, we’ll have people lined up outside just waiting to get a seat. It gets that busy.”