‘I have big plans’

By on September 2, 2020

The ice cream store is just the first step on a long journey. (Kip Tabb)

Tammy Nichols wants to restore Winks in Kitty Hawk

The original Winks store on the corner of the Beach Road and Eckner Street in Kitty Hawk is on the comeback trail — although that journey, complicated by a pandemic, won’t be an easy one.

When the store closed in 2018, there were questions about what would happen to the building that had been so much a part of the history of the town. Tammy Nichols, the owner of Art’s Place next door to Winks, heard those concerns and knew she wanted to do something about it.

“I had a lot of people wanting us to do something. They were all very afraid that the building was going to come down,” she says. “I think they wanted it to be retained for the feel of that area.”

Raising her family in the town, Nichols recalled what that corner had been at one time and felt it should be brought back. “I keep calling it downtown Kitty Hawk, and that’s what it’s going to be again someday,” she asserts.

Nichols’ son, Daniel, who also works at Art’s Place, grew up in the neighborhood and remembered what Winks was like in its heyday.

“It was a good spot for the neighborhood to get together,” he says. “It always had some fresh food to eat or fresh produce to cook with. Just a nice neighborhood market.” What Nichols hopes to create is a space close to the original store her son described.

“I would like to get [something] like a general store. Not, that conveniency feeling kind of thing. But more something with a little more character, a little old timey kind of feel,” she says. “I have big plans. It’s just going to take time.”

On August 1, Nichols took a first step by opening Winks Ice Cream, a walkup window facing Eckner Street.

“I didn’t intend to build out the ice cream shop this year [but] I kind of felt like I had to do something,” she says. And bringing Winks back, has been an effort with some twists and turns.

“The building was built in 1953 and it will take a lot to bring it up to code,” Nichols notes, adding that the wiring was particularly concerning. Having to bring the building up to code was expected. What was not expected was COVID-19.

Art’s Place has always been one of the most popular restaurants on the Outer Banks, and the plan was that the restaurant would generate the money needed for the work that had to be done at Winks.

Then the pandemic came. Even after state guideline were put in place allowing 50% occupancy, Nichols felt that for the safety and health of her customers and employees, she couldn’t open the dining area in Art’s, which at the best of times can only seat 36.

“I haven’t even opened up the dining space for Art’s, it’s so small,” she says. “And it would be kind of close quarters for the employees. I wanted everyone to be as safe as I could possibly” make it.

The restaurant has gone to an all takeout service, which is doing well, but can’t generate as much business as the indoor dining area would. The takeout business is “nothing near what I need it to really produce, to be able to go forward with the Winks building,” Nichols says.

Nonetheless, the venture is moving forward. Slowly, perhaps, but plans are being made. Nichols is hoping to have a small area much like the original Winks with some groceries available by next year. That won’t take up the whole store, but it will be a step toward bringing it back.

When it does come back, Nichols wants it to have the feel of a place where memories are made.

As she talks about the history of that corner of Kitty Hawk, she tells the tale of a couple she met from Richmond and what they told her when Winks and the corner of Eckner and the Beach Road was the center of town.

“When they first started coming down here, the only public phone booth was right there on the corner of Winks, and they would stay in a house on the other side to the Beach Road. They would sit on the porch and watch all the different people that would use that phone because it was the only one.”

“And that,” she says, “was entertainment.”



Comments

  • Carolina

    Anyone know what the hours are for the ice cream shop??

    Wednesday, Sep 2 @ 4:47 pm
  • KDH back seat reviewer

    Good Luck and I mean that in the sincerest of tone. It would be wonderful to see what is envisioned come to be.

    Wednesday, Sep 2 @ 6:14 pm
  • Charlie

    This is fabulous news!!!

    Wink (Miles Sr.) would be THRILLED to know that the store has a future.

    Stay the course! Seriously – you have a gold-mine awaiting you Tammy….. Historically – the store was a BUSY place in it’s hay-day. I saw the books from the late 70’s.. KILLER!!

    But you knew that going in. ( ;

    Will stop by and say HI the1st wk in Oct…. CB

    Thursday, Sep 3 @ 6:32 am
  • WindyBill

    Go For It and best Wishes!!

    Thursday, Sep 3 @ 1:22 pm
  • Tara

    I’m so happy to hear Winks is being restored! Back in the late 70s when I was a teenager, I remember using that pay phone to talk to my boyfriend back home while vacationing with my family at the Sea Kove. 🙂 I still vacation there and am happy to know at some point Winks will be back open for us to frequent.

    Thursday, Sep 3 @ 2:10 pm
  • Rich Callahan

    Is WINKS II in Duck connected to the original oeners?

    Thursday, Sep 3 @ 9:48 pm
  • Robert squillante

    Need a partner?

    Friday, Sep 4 @ 6:39 pm
  • Summer

    They should sell Winks t-shirts with the original design to fundraise!

    Friday, Sep 4 @ 7:20 pm
  • KIM

    In the early 70’s, my parents and grandparents would always go to Wink’s to get their groceries. I remember going with them to that special store. My grandparents would treat my brother and me each to a small brown paper bag full of candy that we each got to pick out at the cash register. Blow pops, pink bubblegum cigars, pop rocks, bazooka bubblegum, fireballs, now and later, jolly ranchers, double bubble bubblegum, bubblegum cigarettes, etc. We were in heaven with our own brown paper bag full of candy from Winks. I will always have these cherished memories of going to Winks with my grandparents and that wonderful brown paper bag full of candy.

    Saturday, Sep 5 @ 7:00 pm
  • Captain

    Glad to hear of your plans. Was saddened when Anderson store was closed / torn down and feared the worst when I heard the news about the Winks Store. Good luck

    Wednesday, Sep 9 @ 10:48 am