CHARLOTTE – So much around Brooks' Sandwich House has changed since the beloved burger joint opened 47 years ago.
As David Brooks explained, it used to be located in North Charlotte, not hip and trendy NoDa. Now there are new apartments and condos everywhere you look. And more on the way.
But this little patch of land and gravel is home to a true Charlotte institution. It's one of those places that's woven into the fabric of the city.
And it's hardly changed since it first opened. The menu has remained the same all these years. Loyal customers – the regulars, if you will, return to grab a spot in line time and time again.
But the Brooks family was recently rocked by something it never saw coming. And it changed everything.
David's twin brother Scott was murdered on an early December morning when he arrived at the eatery. Tragic. Senseless. A revered community member taken away in an instant.
After a period of grieving and recovering, David and his family re-opened the sandwich shop this past Saturday. As you can imagine, the grieving and recovering is still ongoing.
"I'm doing OK," Brooks said. "Sometimes it's a struggle from day to day because things have changed so much. Without the support of my wife and kids…they kept pushing me and kept pushing me. I knew we had to go on."
The people showed up in droves for the re-opening. Brooks said the support from the community has been "overwhelming."
On an overcast Tuesday, the line moved quick. One man had on a Panthers Super Bowl XXXVIII sweatshirt. It was slightly faded in the best way. Another had on a Panthers t-shirt that was a little more worn.
Then a black SUV rolled into the parking lot and out came a man with a crisp Panthers quarter-zip – head coach Matt Rhule. And he didn't come alone.
"Is that the owner of the Panthers?" a woman in line asked.
Yup. It was indeed Dave Tepper.
"It's nice to see someone still interested in old-school stuff like we are," Brooks said. "It's great. It tickles us to death for them to come up."
After mingling with fans in line, Tepper and Rhule made their way to the counter to order – and to drop off an autographed helmet. And they noticed a picture of Scott posted in the kitchen for all the customers to see.
"He was a heck of a guy," Brooks told Tepper. "I really miss him."
Two cheeseburgers "all the way" were on the way. For those who haven't been, that means onions, mustard and chili. And Tepper and Rhule had to try some livermush. Brooks said he grew up on the stuff.
Rhule's review of the burger? "Fantastic."
Tepper did his usual schmoozing before and after eating. And he liked seeing his new head coach mingle with the locals.
"I love going to local places and I love to eat," Tepper said. "Places like that are landmark-type places. I'm happy to go there. I'll be happy to go again. It was a lot of fun."
For Tepper, when it comes to community outreach, his approach has been clear since Day One.
And it is perfectly aligned with Charlotte's favorite old-school burger joint.
"There is only one way to go," Tepper said, "and that's all the way."
The Panthers owner and new head coach paid a visit to the local establishment after it recently re-opened.