DANVILLE, IND. —
The death of television icon Andy Griffith has touched many fans who still enjoy watching the countrified antics of Sheriff Andy Taylor, Deputy Barney Fife and the residents of fictional Mayberry, N.C.
At the Mayberry Café in Danville, Ind., a somber mood was uplifted Tuesday by the free apple pie a la mode shared with customers in honor of Griffith, who portrayed “the sheriff without a gun.”
“It was Andy’s favorite dessert,” said Christine Born, co-owner of the café for the past 22 years.
The apple pie was a touch appreciated by customer Linda Horvath of Avon. A big fan of the show, she said she was thrilled to find the Mayberry-themed café when she and her husband moved to Hendricks County from South Bend four years ago.
“Whenever we have friends in town, we bring them here,” she said, laughing and noting that she would watch “The Andy Griffith Show” 24/7 if she could. So Tuesday’s news that Griffith had died at his home of natural causes saddened her.
“My son texted me this morning from Georgia to ask, ‘Are you doing OK?’” she said.
The Mayberry Café seemed to be a gathering place for many on a day that will now be known as the final curtain call for a North Carolina native who made small-town sheriffing look like a load of fun.
“We prepared for all the questions,” said server Kim Richardson, who printed out a Wikipedia listing on the television program so the staff could brush up on “Andy Griffith Show” trivia. “We had non-stop telephone calls for about two hours today.”
Inside the café, the walls are decorated with photos from the show and of the many actors and guest stars that appeared through the show’s run from 1960 to 1968. At the front counter, men’s hats for sale are embroidered with Mayberry Café, and an 8-by-10 photo of Sheriff Taylor was marked by a tin star with the handwritten letters “R.I.P.”
“We have a lot of people who come in and say it’s so comfortable,” manager Kristin Tyler said of the interior décor. “We actually had a guy say, and it know it sounds cliché’, that it’s like Aunt Bea’s kitchen. And that is the theme.”
The restaurant went through a remodeling a few years ago to install booth seating as well as country-style tables and chairs. An upstairs was also decorated to add seating for the lunch and dinner rush that seems to hit especially hard on Sundays.
And no matter where a customer sits inside the restaurant, a television is within view, with continuous episodes of Andy and the Mayberry gang playing throughout the 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. business day.
“I have two favorite episodes,” Tyler said. “The Loaded Goat” and one in which Barney gets a new car. In the classic goat episode, everyone mistakenly thinks that a ravenous goat has eaten a box of dynamite, and that the slightest jolt will make the goat explode. In the car episode, Barney is scammed by some Mount Pilot grifters who sell him a lemon.
“My dad used to watch ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ all the time, so I grew up with it,” Tyler said.
A photo album at the café includes pictures of Barney Fife impersonators and actual cast members.
Among cast members who have visited the restaurant are Howard Morris (famously kooky Ernest T. Bass); the late George Lindsey (Goober Pyle); Maggie Peterson (hillbilly honey Charlene Darling); Jean Carson (Mount Pilot fun girl Daphne); and fan favorite Jim Nabors (gas jockey Gomer Pyle).
Nabors used to visit each year when he came to the Indianapolis 500, but poor health caused him to miss the race this year.
A major attention grabber sits outside the restaurant — a 1963 police car — a replica of the Mayberry patrol car. Café co-owner Born and her husband, Brad, have two cars that they often send to parades and festivals.
The first car drew quite a bit of controversy when the couple bought it about 12 years ago. It takes up a downtown parking spot in front of the restaurant, and the town police are quick to ticket it if the car sits beyond the two-hour parking limit. In fact, a ticket was plastered to the windshield on Tuesday.
If the car is gone — such as to a parade or for repairs or being garaged in bad weather — some people think the restaurant is closed, Born said.
Manager Tyler said Griffith’s death was a common theme all day Tuesday.
“I heard about it this morning, and I was OK,” she said. “But then I got here, and I just started tearing up. It was so sad. I’d never met the man. Maybe it’s because all of them are gone except for Ron Howard (son Opie in the show) and Gomer.”
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.