Posted Mar 27th, 2019 in Foodie Fodder
This Downtown Wilmington café may be known to many for the popular Pender Burger—a double cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, onion rings and coleslaw—but the owner, Maxine Pender, will tell you that family is the driver of the business.
The business started as a family venture. Maxine raised her family while working in the business and multiple family members have worked there during the 43 years she has owned and operated Pender’s Café.
Growing up, Maxine has fond memories of hanging out with friends in Johnson’s Soda Shop on Front Street. When the owner retired, Maxine’s brother-in-law approached her about buying the business. They sat in the window booth to talk about it and without too much thought, she agreed because she liked the feel of the place. The business name was decided just as quickly. With the flip of a coin, Pender’s was born.
Although Maxine’s brother-in-law didn’t stay with the business very long, Pender’s still remains a family business. In the early years, while Maxine worked, her children would play and nap in the loft at the back of the café until they were old enough to help. One of her grandchildren is even fondly referred to as “the bread box baby” because Maxine would put her down in the old bread box when she was busy. Over the years, all the children and grandchildren have worked in the café. Even Maxine’s mother worked there for a while. If you become a regular diner, you too will be considered a part of Pender’s extended family.
Pender’s is known and loved by many, perhaps because they make everything the old-fashioned way—the way mom or grandma made it, with everything fresh and made from scratch each day. Customers also love the retro 1950s look of the café with the option to sit in a booth or at the counter. Kids love to sit and eat at the counter and watch milkshakes being made. Orders can also be made to go or, as customers used to say 40 years ago, “On wheels!”
With so much history, Pender’s Café is one of those places to add to your “must visit” list.
Hours: Mon – Sat, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
205 N Front St
Wilmington, NC 28401