The Sno-Cap Drive-in and Diner, known locally as The Cap, will celebrate 50 years of being in business next year. Those years created memories for many people.
“The Sno-Cap isn’t just a restaurant that’s reminiscent of the old-time diner,” said co-owner Rachel Franklin. “It is the old-time diner.”
The Sno-Cap was founded in 1964 by Grant Hoyer, who already owned a Sno-Cap Drive-in in Aiken. Like most drive-in eating places of that day, it quickly became the hang-out for area teenagers.
“The high school was across the street at that time,” said Angela Burkhalter, now a frequent customer, along with her husband, Bill.
“My children came here and still do when they’re in town. My favorite food is the quesadilla and Bill loves the hamburger. And, of course, a milkshake. There are lots of memories here.”
Hoyer sold the restaurant to Charles Terry in 1972 and he owned it for 22 years. He had worked for PYA/Monarch Food Service Co. as Hoyer’s salesman.
Terry then passed it on to the Franklins in 1996. Mrs. Franklin worked for the same food service company and had heard about the restaurant from Herb Womble, Terry’s salesman.
“Mr. Womble was a mentor to me and he told me I’d be good at it,” she said. “I’d only been to the Sno-Cap a time or two. I didn’t grow up in North Augusta.”
Franklin said she feels it was divine intervention that led to her ownership of the restaurant.
“I heard about it in 1994 and I’d tossed the idea around in my mind. I was looking for someone to partner with me,” she said.
In 1996, she met her future husband, Kenny, and they started dating.
“I told him about the idea and his response was that he had always thought about owning a restaurant,” she said.
“The hardest part was getting started,” she said. “The waitress, Susan Carpenter, was eight months pregnant, so I had a month to learn the business. The cook came with the deal. After they both left, the biggest challenge was finding good help.”
On the first anniversary, the Franklins had a party. After that, every August they have an all-day celebration.
The Franklins leased the restaurant out for two years with the option to purchase, while they were getting another business started. They took the restaurant back over in 2011.
Although some changes came with time, the Franklins have strived to keep the restaurant as original as possible. For years, it has been not so much a drive-in as a full-service diner.
Ironically, technology has helped change that. Volunteers have refurbished the exterior and lights of the long-unused drive-in speaker boxes and the system is being used via the customers calling on their cell phones for service curbside for drive-in or to-go orders.
The dine-in customers are mostly families, seniors and those who cherish Sno-Cap nostalgia.
“Some families have been coming here a long time,” Franklin said. “One family has three generations of Sno-Cap lovers.”
For the Franklins, events have always played a large part in the business. SCE-TV came in 2004 and promised to return for the 50th anniversary celebration.
“We’ve had the cruise-ins for 16 years now,” she said of one of the events the restaurant plays host to. “Over the years, different car clubs have come. It’s not a car show, just a place for the car owners to fellowship and talk about their classic cars and old times. We have from 40 to 60 cars a month.”
Bike night is in its second season. “We started the FUNraisers when we came back,” she said. “This is an opportunity for nonprofit groups to host activities on-site to promote awareness and funds for their cause.”
Franklin said she feels the business is a ministry for her. She has collected numerous pictures, memorabilia and quotes she plans to organize into a book someday.
“I hope people will come forward with more memorabilia,” she said.
For updated photos, events and weekly specials, go to the Web site at Sno-CapDrive-in.com, or like it on Facebook.