Sutton’s has achieved the status as an iconic symbol in Chapel Hill through its designation as a historical site, its reliance on old school charm to create a timeless experience, and its emphasis on fostering a connection to UNC students and basketball.
159 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC
Mon-Fri 7:00 am-6:30 pm; Sat 7:00 am-4:30 pm; Sun 9:00 am-3:00 pm
Expect to spend $6-$10 for a typical lunch or breakfast
Tar Heel Tips
– Game days and weekends are always crowded at Sutton’s. Go on a weekday for fewer crowds.
– On a college budget? Sutton’s has 2 hot dogs & fries for $3.25 on Tuesdays & Thursdays!
– They have 62 different flavors of vintage sodas – can you try them all??
– Walk or ride the bus to Sutton’s, because they do not provide parking. If you need to park, it is available along Franklin Street and nearby parking lots for a small fee.
– Post a photo with #SuttonsStories to Instagram and you may have your picture featured on their website!
– Buy some Sutton’s swag and get a t-shirt or baseball hat!
UNC has a tradition of rushing Franklin Street after beating Duke in a basketball game. We jump over burning couches and fight crowds, just to celebrate the victory. On Halloween night, Franklin Street shuts down; crowds from all over walk around with their best costumes and celebrate the night together. On football Saturdays, people fill the street, preparing for what might be a great game for their Tar Heels. They stop by Sutton’s Drug Store and eat a sandwich at the lunch counter.
Located in the heart of Franklin Street, Sutton’s Drug Store is among these and many other traditions in Chapel Hill. Sutton’s opened its doors in 1923, offering the Chapel Hill community delicious food and essential medication. Its pharmacy closed in 2014, but the restaurant remains, bringing in Tar Heels of all ages and backgrounds. Sutton’s has achieved the status as an iconic symbol in Chapel Hill through its designation as a historical site, its reliance on old school charm to create a timeless experience, and its emphasis on fostering a connection to UNC students and basketball.
A Tradition Born & Bred
Sutton’s Drug Store is an iconic symbol in Chapel Hill due to its rich history. According to Our State Magazine, Sutton’s is a “Town Heritage Site” . This type of landmark is defined as “a historical site, a building, or an area of unspoilt natural environment, considered to be important to a country or area’s heritage” . The history that Sutton’s holds within its walls is essential for the character of Chapel Hill. Sutton’s has been a part of UNC for ninety-four of its 228 year-long history.
A website dedicated to history in North Carolina says, “The fact that Sutton’s is still in business today, serving a whole new generation, captures the magic of Franklin Street. The old and the new are mixed there and generations are united” . Sutton’s Drug Store is part of the “magic” of Franklin Street. It is a part of the idea that people can come together in one place to enjoy a meal and experience a vital part of Chapel Hill’s history. The “old-fashioned idea of a lunch counter” is aligned with one-stop shopping that consumers are wanting these days . Soda fountains may be an old idea, but they offer everything consumers want in one place. The old school charm and historical aspects keep people coming back.
A Time Machine to Generations Before
The old school charm at Sutton’s creates a timeless experience for Tar Heels of all kind. Vintage soda bottles fill the shelves on one side of the store and directly across from them are homemade jams. Placed neatly in the middle is candy of all kinds, including every flavor of taffy imaginable. Farther into the store is where the work happens. Booths and tables fill the space and a lunch counter sits in the back left corner. The pharmacy, which is now just a display, is along the back wall of the restaurant. Every customer can see the history at Sutton’s, from the old Coca-Cola machine that dispenses bottles to the all-inclusive lunch counter.
One UNC Graduate said, “Going to Sutton’s Drug Store is, in some ways, like entering a time machine to go into the past. A person can put their smart phone away and go back into the past at Sutton’s.” The old school charm of Sutton’s is a gateway for generations; it brings the classic style and history of a diner to the progressive people of Chapel Hill.
One scholar says, “there is more taking place than a business exchange” . Sutton’s is not just a business seeking profit and success; it is creating an experience for all Tar Heels to feel welcome, no matter their age, background, or team affiliation. Everyone is welcome and everyone can find his or her home in Chapel Hill at Sutton’s Drug Store. Sutton’s vintage charm creates an atmosphere for all people that promotes the tradition of the old school, classic diner and drug store that is an iconic symbol in Chapel Hill.
A Home in Chapel Hill
Sutton’s relationship with UNC students and basketball emphasizes its important and essential role in Chapel Hill. The employees make connections with students, alumni and community members. Greg Lovins, UNC graduate, says, “Sutton’s Drug Store combines the best of Chapel Hill village life with UNC college life.” Sutton’s relationship to UNC is a major part of their survival as a soda fountain shop on Franklin Street and of their ability to thrive in that position.
Since 1983, Sutton’s has put up pictures of its customers enjoying food and company on the walls. Pictures of athletes, community members, and students fill the space. The walls are now completely covered, and while there is no room for more pictures, the tradition lives on; Sutton’s is and always will be a part of the community. Sutton’s immerses itself into the community and student life of Chapel Hill, and its employees care about the individual customer. Robbie Moore, UNC Class of 2020, says that he goes into Sutton’s at least once a week, and they recognize him and his friends every time. He says the employees are extremely friendly and he loves their emphasis on history, especially basketball history.
Sutton’s definitely shows its support for UNC and its basketball program. If you look closely at the pictures on the walls, you may recognize people like Michael Jordan, Tyler Hansbrough and Marcus Paige. Old basketball jerseys line the walls and the windows. Posters from every single National Championship are hanging in clear view, just in case any Duke fans venture in and forget how many we have won. The menu features items like the “Franklin Street Ham,” the “Dean Dome Deluxe,” and “Roy’s Rueben.” Sutton’s promotes the tradition of UNC and creates a space to be a part of that tradition. People consider Sutton’s part of their home in Chapel Hill because of its relationship with the University.
According to Our State Magazine, “Sutton’s is addictive… Once customers experience Sutton’s, they can’t seem to let go” . Tar Heel or not, Sutton’s creates an atmosphere that makes any customer feel a part of something bigger than themselves. No matter the age, background, or team affiliation, the sense of belonging never goes away. Sutton’s promotes the tradition of Franklin Street and the University of North Carolina, while creating and emphasizing their own tradition. When enough people get together and experience something like Sutton’s, good things start to happen. The community comes together in a space where their roots are evident through a powerful history and lasting relationships.