A lot has changed in downtown Plymouth over the years.
It used to have department stores, jewelry stores, furniture stores, restaurants — you name it.
Most those moved out in the 1990s, but it looks like a comeback is underway.
Along Water Street in downtown Plymouth, you’ll find the Garden Spot Cafe.
“We’re doing the best we can in a small town,” said Wally Lamb, who owns the restaurant. “…We like to think that we cause most of the traffic in downtown Plymouth.”
The Garden Spot is a hot spot now, but it wasn’t that way when it first opened during the summer of 2001.
“You couldn’t even get a Coca-Cola in downtown Plymouth,” Lamb said.
In 2000, the Roanoke River Lighthouse and Maritime Museum opened down the street.
That’s when three sisters — Wally, Vicki and Jenny — bought a century-old building with a dream of opening a restaurant. Thing is, none of them had any restaurant experience.
“I tell everybody the only thing we knew about a restaurant was we liked to eat out,” said Wally Lamb.
But they made it work. People from Plymouth and the surrounding area come out every day for some home-style cooking.
“We’ve been here 17 year,” said Lamb. “It’s just me now. The other two sisters, one was not thrilled with the restaurant business, and the other one passed away.”
That’s when Lamb’s oldest son, Joe Womble, came into the fold. Like his mother, Womble didn’t have restaurant experience either.
“I taught school for 14 and a half years; then ended up here,” said Womble. “My mother’s sister passed away, and she was here running the place by herself at that point, and she just needed some help. So I came in to work full time.”
Now, mother and son run the restaurant. here they are, side by side, mother and son running a restaurant.
So, what’s that like for mom?
“This is probably what you’re going to have to bleep,” said Lamb.
However, Lamb was surprised about one of Womble’s hidden skills.
“Low and behold, he can cook,” said Lamb. “It absolutely amazed me. When he lived with me he couldn’t do a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“I picked it up as a hobby in college,” said Womble. “You know, moving in an apartment, you have to feed yourself. It just kind of flourished from there.”
“He loved to experiment,” said Lamb. “So we let him.”
“It makes it a little bit easier to try things,” said Womble. “You can order what you want, and you have a commercial kitchen, deep fryers and everything. So, it makes it kind of nice to experiment.”
Womble’s experimentation carried upstairs when the Garden Spot added a seasonal oyster bar a few years back.
“You know, just a place where people can come and hang out and have live music every now and then,” said Womble. “Good seafood. Fresh. We try to get it all local as close as we can get it. And it’s worked out well.”
The mother and son duo have the Garden Spot Cafe thriving; a true family affair, all the way down to the restaurant’s name.
“My daddy, Dick Lamb, who was a county commissioner here…he thought that Washington County was the garden spot of the world,” said Lamb. “So it’s the Garden Spot Cafe because of daddy.”
Way before the building housed the Garden Spot, it was a car dealership.
The showroom was downstairs and thanks to large elevator, cars were actually taken upstairs to be worked on.