By Bailey Faulkner
When Greg and Debbie Cairns moved to the High Country in the mid-1970s, Foscoe was still largely off the beaten path. If you wanted to stop and grab a bite to eat or warm up with a cup of coffee, you would have had to drive miles to reach the nearest restaurant or diner. But Debbie’s father Don had an idea to fix that.
Realizing the stretch of US Hwy 105 running through Foscoe was little more than a two-lane road, Don asked his newly-wed daughter and son-in-law, “why don’t you guys open your own place?” Over 40 years and countless meals have passed since that fateful question was first posed to the Cairnses.
“There was nothing up here. People thought we were insane,” said Debbie, owner of the Grandview Restaurant.
It may have been an insane idea at first, but the Cairnses knew a bit about serving breakfast and lunch.
“Cooking breakfast is unbelievable. Even an egg can be cooked in 50 different ways,” Debbie said.
It isn’t that surprising that Debbie and Greg first met while working at a Miami IHOP while still in their teens.
“I was waiting tables and he was cooking. And I fell madly in love with him,” Debbie fondly remembered.
At the time, Debbie was only 15 — working her first job — and Greg was only 16. But the couple didn’t waste any time wondering if they were a destined pair. After a few short years, the couple sealed the deal.
“We got married on Independence Day. We were working in Miami, and we had to go to work that day, so we got married at our neighbor’s house. After work that night, we got on Greg’s mom’s roof and watched the fireworks for our honeymoon,” Debbie said as her face brightened.
Moving to the High Country to work for Debbie’s parents, the couple spent a short time getting on their feet. With Don having already presented the idea of opening a restaurant off Hwy 105, the Cairnses were given a stroke of luck when a car accident landed the still-fresh couple some much-needed insurance money.
Using the money to purchase the plot of land where the Grandview now sits, the couple saw the stars align again when Rip Collins of Blowing Rock was bought out of his canoe rental business and home during the U.S. Route 321 lane expansion project. The Cairnses were able to purchase the two buildings, ultimately moving the structures to Foscoe and spawning what is now the Grandview Restaurant. By July 2, 1977, the restaurant was open for business.
Only 23 at the time of the restaurant’s opening, Debbie would be the first to tell you that she is grateful for all the help she has received, especially in those early years when the couple worked seven days a week, serving three meals per day.
“My mom and dad used to come in every night from Blowing Rock, eat dinner, hang around until we were closed and help us clean up. They did that every night for a year probably, because they knew we were exhausted.”
As the years passed and business continued to grow, the Cairnses were forced to hire some helping hands around the restaurant. But that didn’t stop the couple from doing what they loved. For Greg, that was working in the kitchen as the “King of the Grill;” for Debbie, that was helping folks in the front of the house.
“40 years later, we were still doing the same thing,” Debbie reflected on the couple’s career in the food industry.
Some of the couple’s help came from their children Charles and Leigh Ann. The kids, now both adults, were always “on call,” helping out in the restaurant wherever they could.
“I have really great kids and I’m very blessed,” Debbie said.
Now, Charles works as a “computer genius,” as his mother puts it, and Leigh Ann uses her skills in graphic design to lend a helping hand to her mother and the restaurant that will reach its 40th year mark on July 2.
But before the Cairnses could reach that magical 40th year together, tragedy struck. On his birthday on September 19, 2013, Greg passed away while doing what he loved — working in the kitchen.
Now that Greg and his familiar antics like the classic plastic sunny side egg prank have passed, Debbie has filled the added responsibilities at the restaurant. But coming as no surprise, the employees at the Grandview, like longtime friends Mike Love, Derek Towne, Gina Towne and Marie Connolly, were able to help keep things running smoothly at the restaurant.
“I never in a million years thought I would be doing this by myself. If it wasn’t for my employees, I would not be here,” Debbie said.
Another reason Debbie continues doing what she loves at the Grandview is the restaurant’s loyal customers. In particular, the Breakfast Club — a self-named group of various community members — eats nearly every morning at the restaurant, coming back for what they have grown to love over the 40 years that the restaurant has been open.
“You know, it’s nothing extraordinary. It’s just 40 years of the same Southern classics, really. The consistency of the food is what brings people in,” Debbie humbly said about her years alongside some of the most recognizable figures in the community.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the Grandview will host a week-long event honoring the customers and friends who have made the four decades possible for the Cairnses.
“We are going to start the celebration Saturday and it will be going on all week,” Debbie said.
Starting Saturday, the restaurant will be handing out giveaways and other fun items to show its appreciation for everyone who has been a part of the restaurant’s storied history.
It has been a long ride for the Cairnses, and the family admits that they would not be where they are today without help from their relatives, loved ones and friends from the community. So if you’ve come to love the restaurant over the years or just want to try some delicious breakfast and lunch at a great price, stop by the Grandview sometime during their week-long celebration. You won’t be disappointed.
Although Greg is no longer with us, Debbie knows that he would be proud of reaching this milestone in the restaurant’s long history. The family is honored to keep his legacy (or as they lovingly call it, his “eggacy”) alive and well.
“I miss him everyday. I really do.”
The Grandview Restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Grandview Restaurant is on 24/7 call with the Red Cross for help with any food emergency in the area. Each year, the restaurant supports the Seven Devils Safety Fest and Foscoe Fire Department. The restaurant also donates for Huntington’s Marathons and works with many local organizations like the Valle Crucis Community Park and local schools and churches for their fundraising efforts. To learn more, contact the restaurant here or call (828) 963-4573.
Check out these pictures of the Grandview Restaurant and its wonderful employees, High Country-famous plants and preparations for its anniversary celebration!