HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - One of Huntsville’s oldest businesses is making a move. Big Spring Café closed last weekend. The last full day was Friday, March 10th.
It’ll open again this week in a different location.
The sound of traffic is always busy on Governors Drive But inside Big Spring Café, the noise is drowned out by the sizzling sound of greasy burgers frying on the grill. The sound of “I need 6 cheeseburgers and 4 hamburgers” can be heard as staff takes orders at the counter or to go.
It’s just another day at work for owner Pam Milam and her employees.
Big Spring Café has been around since 1922. It’s had six owners and now, six locations. Pam’s aunt bought it in 1947. “Aunt Hazel and Uncle Wilford retired in 72. And my parents took it from 72, Howard and Doris to 92. And then I took it in 92,” she told me while taking a short break at the only table in the café. “And I’ve still got it.” And she’s not going anywhere! “I was 10 years old when we came here,” she recalls.
While people sit on the stools at the counter, others wait behind them waiting for their turn at enjoying a chili dog or a greasy burger off the grill. “We have customers that eat with us six days a week. And sometimes they’ll come back twice a day,” Pam said.
She’s grateful for each and every one of them who comes through the door. “We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for my help and the customers we have,” she said. “They are so loyal.”
Several generations have enjoyed the hot dogs and hamburgers. That won’t change when they move down the road on Governors. “The big sign says, Big Spring Café. Home of the greasy burger,” she said with a smile.
I asked her if she has any idea how many greasy burgers she’s served over the years. She laughed and said, “Oh no but I wish I had a penny for every one I’ve had since 1992. That’d be nice.” She could probably retire early. “I could retire, or pay for a new building,” she said laughing.
Everything in the new building will be new. “I’m the only old thing that’s going,” she said with another laugh. When I asked what she’s going to miss about the old building and place, she looked at me and then looked away. Tears were welling up in her eyes. “I feel like I’m leaving my parents,” she said. “Because every corner I turn, you know, I can see ‘em so it’s really hard.”
But she’ll take those memories with her, along with her father’s burger flipper. “He actually used the same spatula until he wore a hole in it,” she told me. It’ll hang proudly in the new café. “I’m putting that in a shadow box with him at the grill,” she said.
He even had to have the wooden handle replaced once. He just flat wore it out. “Wore it out,” Pam said. “That’s a lot of hamburgers.” And there are more burger to cook.
Pam and her crew took last week off and will be ready to open at the new location on Governors Drive a few blocks west of the old one Thursday morning, March 23rd. No doubt, those loyal customers will be there for the first round of chili dogs and greasy burgers hot off the new grill.