By Carol Vaughn —
A former Eastern Shore fast-food icon will be sold at auction Saturday, April 10.
Tammy & Johnny’s, on Route 13 in Melfa, for decades was the go-to eatery on the Shore for fried chicken, as well as being known for its cheesesteak subs, hamburgers, and more.
Ronnie Edwards opened the restaurant with his wife, Shirley, in 1967.
The business was named for their two children and the family operated it for half a century.
Edwards had previously worked for the C&P Telephone Company and once met someone who found success selling doughnuts. He thought he could do something similar, and decided to open a stand selling hamburgers (for 19 cents apiece), French fries, and milkshakes.
Fried chicken was added to the menu later.
Edwards added an eat-in dining area in the mid-1970s.
When Tammy & Johnny’s opened, the first McDonald’s chain restaurant on the Eastern Shore of Virginia was still a decade away from being built.
The restaurant scene has changed a lot since then, with multiple fast-food eateries and convenience stores up and down Route 13, including some that offer fried chicken.
But back in the day, Tammy & Johnny’s was the place for travelers and locals alike to stop for fried chicken and other treats.
Many a church supper and community picnic on the Shore featured the familiar brown-and-orange striped buckets of chicken.
The eatery’s sign, with its big yellow block letters spelling out the two names, was a beacon for highway travelers who made it a point to stop there every time they passed through.
At Tammy & Johnny’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2007, customers enjoyed 40-cent hamburgers, a disc jockey, and face painting and balloons for the kids.
The restaurant that year won a Cooperative Living magazine Best in Virginia readers’ choice award for best fried chicken.
The magazine article spoke glowingly about the restaurant, saying, in part: “What makes Tammy & Johnny’s fried chicken so special? Ronnie Edwards says it’s ‘a combination of the things we do … and the things we don’t do.’ They do marinate fresh chicken overnight in a secret blend of spices. They don’t cook at low temperatures. The chicken is cooked in pure cottonseed oil, so ‘it’s never greasy,’ Edwards insists. If they run out of properly marinated poultry, they don’t fry any more until the next batch has been seasoned overnight.”
The Edwards retired. Then, the restaurant was closed in March 2018, needing some structural repairs.
Shirley Edwards died in November 2018 at age 83.
Express Auctioneers, which has offices in Baltimore, Md., Delaware, and Virginia, will auction the property.
The on-site auction sale, at 27352 Lankford Highway in Melfa, includes the 2,500-square-foot brick restaurant on one acre, paved parking, and a rental home behind the restaurant. The auction will be held Saturday, April 10 at 1 p.m. Pre-auction offers are accepted.
Auctioneer Michael Catrino of Express Auctioneers said the most recent listing price for the property was $300,000. This is an absolute auction, meaning “somebody’s going to get a bargain,” he said.
“I thought it was a newsworthy story. For years, Tammy & Johnny’s was THE place,” Catrino said, adding,“…They were known wide and far for their fried chicken recipe.”
Details about the auction and the property are at https://www.expressauction.com/
“It’s an old-fashioned, on-site, live auction,” Catrino said, adding he thinks there is “an opportunity there for someone” to open up a restaurant at the site that, like Tammy & Johnny’s, could offer “good food and good prices.”
“I just think somebody that bought that place could do that all over again. There’s the old saying, ‘If you build it, they will come’…It’s got so much history there,” Catrino said.