By Eliot Duke
Dunn Daily Record
Bobby Miller and Charles Lindsay came from very different but similar backgrounds.
Separated by an ocean, the two men favored a small town over the big city life. They also enjoyed the restaurant business.
These commonalities came together last year as a pandemic tried to pull them apart, and the fate of Western Sizzlin hung in the balance.
Miller wanted to sell his Dunn staple and Lindsay had every intention of buying it, but the COVID-19 wrench delayed their transaction for months. Perseverance eventually paid off and fans of the open buffet restaurant can take comfort in knowing it’s not going anywhere.
“You’ve got to enjoy it to be good at it, and I think he enjoys it,” Miller said of the new owner. “I know I enjoyed every day. I never got up not wanting to go to work.”
Miller, who started his restaurant career as a partner manager for Golden Corral, opened Western Sizzlin in 1989. It burned down a decade later and Miller had a decision to make: rebuild or move on. He elected to reinvest in his hometown community.
“I’ve been here all my life,” said Miller. “I wanted to come back home. My ties go pretty deep. I was getting to where I wasn’t able to do it and I needed somebody capable like [Lindsay]. It was a hard choice, but my health isn’t very good and I wasn’t able to give it what it needed.”
Lindsay grew up in a smaller Scotland version of Dunn, populated by just 300 people. The similarity to home attracted him to the area and when the possibility of purchasing Western Sizzlin, an establishment that shared in his Christian values, came along, Lindsay didn’t want to miss it.
“I actually met Mr. Miller a year and a half ago,” Lindsay said. “We had everything arranged and sorted and then the pandemic hit and I couldn’t get my loan any more. We had to wait for the best part of a year. We’ve always loved this area. I’m not a city person. I wanted to have a place that had a positive influence on my life and not a negative.”
COVID-19 made the sale difficult. Miller closed for five weeks and struggled under pandemic restrictions for much of 2020 as Lindsay learned what he could from his predecessor. With pandemic conditions gradually improving, Lindsay said he looks forward to seeing Western Sizzlin transition back to normal. Aside from the masked and gloved customers at the buffet lines, it is normal.
“I think the pandemic has actually made us better,” said Lindsay. “I think it will make the buffet experience stronger in the long run. Everything is going to stay exactly as it’s been and hopefully as good as it’s always been. If it could withstand the past year, that just shows fantastic support from the people.”
Miller thinks Lindsay came along at a good time as Harnett County continues to grow and the community looks to put the pandemic behind them.
“When you put it all together I think it will make a big difference,” Miller said. “You wanted to do all you could within reason, and I think we did that. Now people are getting out and our numbers show it.”
Lindsay purchased the restaurant under his company White Swan Construction.