It is very rare that I get teary-eyed over a meal. Especially a double cheeseburger with cheese and ketchup only and some fries, tots and onion rings. But on Saturday, March 9, 2013, I did.
And on Sunday, I hoped my previous meal would be my second to last. I called in at 4:30 p.m. and Judy Miller informed me that they were no longer taking orders as they had sold out.
Life’s little staple remover was hard at work (with resistance by the locals) as it removed the staple of Downtown Augusta. A nearly 50 year staple that in its last three days brought Augustans and former Augustans back to the eating establishment of their youth.
Facebook went wild with remorse and with details of people’s “last meal.”
Miller’s Five is gone.
No more cherry limeades. No more onion rings to die for. No more vanilla cones to put the rest of the cones to shame. Or the flattest, most delicious burgers ever.
It’s hard to find the “happy ending” in this but it’s there.
It wasn’t the economy that drove them away. It wasn’t disloyal patrons. In fact, by the comments on Facebook, the photos posted and the line that started at Miller’s Five and ended beyond the bowling alley, none of these things stopped them from feeding Augusta’s hungry.
Unlike most businesses in this economy, the crew at Miller’s Five made a decision to close. While I hope we all pray for Judy right now in the battle for her life, we can rejoice in the fact that Augusta thrived on their food for nearly half a decade. We loved Miller’s Five and they loved us. And they closed their doors (or windows) by choice. Not by us forgetting they were there.
I remember cruising State Street as a senior at AHS. The u-turn point was down by Miller’s Five. We’d cruise and we’d stop to see our friends who worked there, pick up a limeade or two (if it was Happy Hour) and keep cruisin’ along. I remember anniversary sales when my parents would buy countless cheeseburgers and freeze them. I remember introducing my girls to Miller’s Five and taking my out-of-town friends there.
While I do hope someone rises to the challenge and purchases Miller’s Five (and keeps it exactly the same), it only seems right that they closed their windows on their terms. It is difficult to even imagine anyone but Lee and Judy and their kids and grandkids running the joint. When Lee died, an Augusta icon was gone. Nevertheless, Judy continued on – cancer and all – to keep us well fed. But the time has come to officially say goodbye to the staple of Downtown Augusta. It is time to let the Millers rest. After all, “Ma Miller” needs a break.
Page 2 of 2 - As Judy said herself on KAKE News, “It’s sad, it’s really sad. I sit and cry because this has been my life for 49 and a half years.”
How can we ever thank them for their 49 years of devotion and limeades and heavenly treats to our community?
By the 50 minute wait this weekend that people endured in rain and whipping winds and very chilling temps, I think we did. I think the Millers know how much we adore them and how much this breaks our hearts as much as it breaks theirs.
Judy, Lee and the Miller kids, you have served us well. Thank you. Thank you for being the heart – the staple - of Downtown Augusta. And thank you for feeding us all.
The staple has been removed but it will never be forgotten.
Jaime Simpson is a Gazette columnist, the busy mother of two girls, a wife and business owner.