Those of us who grew up in Middle Georgia, and in particular in Macon, are saddened today. You see, an institution which succored us from our earliest memories as a kid, burned down Friday morning.
It was the Cotton Avenue location of Nu-Way Weiners, a Macon institution for 99 years, and second oldest hot dog stand in the nation. Though there are seven other locations in Middle Georgia, Cotton Avenue was where it was founded, and many of us remember eating there before we began school. When I was coming along, you could get two hot dogs ‘all the way,’ meaning a liquid chili sauce with fresh onions on top, for 25 cents, which included a Coke.
The spot was strategically located across from the Macon City Auditorium. Many Georgians remember it as a place to grab a hot dog during the many visits high school basketball teams made to state tournaments, played at the City Auditorium.
“What’s so special about a Nu-Way hot dog?,” many Atlanta Varsity lovers will ask. If you were raised on the Varsity chili dog, you probably will never be won over to the Nu-Way brand. It’s an entirely distinctly different taste, more zingy and delicious in your mouth. It’s smoother, too, and included this red, red wiener, grilled, not boiled. Then that tangy sauce, which reminds you of a vinegar taste, adds its own distinctiveness to the flavor.
Our GeorgiaClips had the story Friday morning. By mid-day, people l knew originally from Macon but now in far-flung parts of the country were chiming in to one another about the fire, recalling their memories, and lamenting the blow to the Macon psyche.
One came from Washington, D.C., from Sidney Wood: “WOW! Of all the posts that John Henry Pittman (webmaster of Lanier High class of ’53) has sent us over all these years, I think this one has attracted more responses/comments than any other. I guess it just goes to show that those good memories from our younger selves remain with us – and that’s a good thing.”
From Macon, Melba Gassett Horne wrote: “I have tried numerous Nu-Ways over the years and found the Northside Drive to be the closest in quality to Cotton Avenue. I have decided all Nu-Ways are not created equal!!! We must always hold memories close and remember the good times of our youth. ”
George Barfield of Macon, recognized that other Nu-Way locations were around,, saying “Yes and I can still get ‘em on Zebulon Road, but, there’s nothing like the Cotton Avenue location.” Sue Coggins of Macon chipped in, remembering her late husband: “That’s what Bill always said.”
The good news is that co-owners Spyros Dermatas and Jim Cacavias never wavered for a moment on their plans: they would immediately start to restore the Cotton Avenue location. The estimated time to rebuild will be 9-10 months. They had originally planned a 100 year anniversary celebration in 2016, but now, they look forward to a grand re-opening, perhaps by the Feb. 27,2016 anniversary.
What a day that will be! We bet many former Middle Georgians are making plans to be there… to enjoy another Cotton Avenue Nu-Way weiner.
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PS: Why the incorrect spelling as “weiner”? The old neon sign misspelled wiener. But at the high cost of the sign, the original Greek owners never changed it. Luckily, it survived the fire.