He said he will sell the business, a fixture of Quintard Avenue since the 1960s, but declined to provide the potential buyer’s name or that person’s intentions for the building.
“We want to thank all the the people that have supported us,” Phillips said. “We’ve enjoyed being here and enjoyed the customers that we’ve had.”
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said it’s sad anytime a business closes in the city, but he’s especially saddened considering the Goal Post’s importance to the community. The restaurant has served the likes of Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, generals and several Alabama governors. U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin was a regular and often took the barbecue with him on plane rides back to Washington according to a former owner.
“I hate to lose an old friend, but at the same time it's an opportunity for something new there,” Stewart said.
The mayor said he had heard that the building housing the restaurant would be demolished, but declined to say how he knew. However, he stressed that he and city leaders would do all they can to keep the restaurant’s iconic sign in Anniston.
When illuminated, a red neon field kicker would swing his leg and send a trail of amber neon footballs flipping through a set of uprights toward the restaurant. It was one of the first neon signs on Quintard Avenue.
"We want future generations to enjoy the sign as much as current and past generations have,” he said.
Phillips said he didn’t know the potential buyer’s plans for the sign, but there’s no shortage of people interested in it if the site is demolished.
In between coating pies with whipped cream and clearing dishes off the countertop Friday, server Carolina Schlemminger said she’ll be sad to see doors close.
“It’s been a wonderful place to work, and I love the customers,” she said.
As he walked out the doors Friday afternoon, Larry Keel said he has been coming to the Goal Post since the 1960s, practically his whole life. He said it was the place where folks streamed in before and after Anniston High School’s football games.
“It’s got a down home feel to it, a real relaxing feel,” said Keel’s wife, Debra Keel.
Though the staff had planned to close at 8 p.m., word spread on social media and the restaurant was sold out of food by 4 p.m.
The Goal Post was originally a drive-in at 15 East 14th St. According to his 2002 obituary, Calhoun County businessman S.A. Pruett opened the restaurant in the early 1950s.
Pinning down the exact date that the Goal Post moved to Quintard is difficult.
Betty Walker, owner of Betty’s Bar-B-Q who was married to Pruett while he owned the Goal Post, places it sometime between 1969 and 1970. However, a 1979 business profile in The Anniston Star has the business moving to Quintard in 1962.
Walker said the building on Quintard was once a Masonic Lodge in Eastaboga. She said that when it first opened, a few people joked that it looked like a chicken coop. That prompted Pruett to have the place covered with bricks, which were salvaged from homes on Quintard Avenue that were demolished to make way for the businesses, Walker said.
She said Jack’s had been the only restaurant in the area before the Goal Post came in.
“When we had it, it was really good,” she said.
Pruett sold the business to B.B. Ballard, who sold it to Roy Young in 1973. Young and his family kept the business until 1998.
Young’s daughter, Barbara O’Dell, said one reason they kept the business for 25 years was because how much they enjoyed being around people.
“They were more like family than customers,” she said of the Goal Post’s patrons.
O’Dell said it was her father’s insistence on quality that made the Goal Post a household name in the area. She said the meat they served was smoked for 24 hours, using only hickory, as her father decreed.
“He cooked for his customers like he would family,” she said.
Young and his family sold the Goal Post to Wayne Warren, who sold it to Phillips in 2002.
In 2005, the barbecue at the restaurant made the Alabama Department of Tourism’s list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.
As famous as the barbecue is the restaurant’s neon sign, described on blogs celebrating Americana as a textbook example of the happiness and prosperity reflected in the animated neon signs of the 1950s.
“It’s a pretty well known sign as far as collectors and historians go,” said Tod Swormstedt, founder of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.
Pruett had the sign custom made, and shortly after Young purchased the business, he had it sent back to the manufacturer to be restored.
The sign has not lit up since storm winds took it out of commission in 2009, despite efforts by Phillips and other community members to raise funds for its repair.
Swormstedt said it’s important that such signs are preserved because they serve as symbols to the individuality of their communities — something that’s rare now as franchises and chain businesses homogenize the country’s landscape.
“Small businesses have always been the heart of the American economy, and their signs are kind of the image that represent small businesses,” he said.
For more information about the American Sign Museum, go to signmuseum.org.
Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.