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25 years of Memories: Mount Airy restaurant celebrating silver anniversary

For anyone who has been to Mount Airy and been mystified by the oval stickers everywhere stamped with “MCH,” it might be time to get wise.

Memories Charcoal House is turning 25, after all.

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The Mount Airy restaurant and bar will celebrate a quarter-century in business on Saturday, April 13. A hybrid of a sports bar and a family restaurant, it’s tucked into the corner of the Mount Airy Shopping Center and is just starting its annual rollout onto the patio bar as warm weather comes.

The proprietors hope the establishment has served as a little bit of everything for their guests.

“You can come for dinner, or you can come for just drinks, or come for your favorite sports game, or an all-in-one,” said co-owner Andrea Stup

Stup and co-owner Jon Speiser started out on the ground floor as employees.

Speiser started 16 years ago waiting tables and worked his way up through bartending. Stup started in 2001 after growing up in the area.

A. Reid Roberts opened the establishment in 1994 after purchasing the site of the former Beaverbrook Inn, The Baltimore Sun reported back in 1994.

When he was ready to sell, Stup and Speiser took over.

“I guess we were young and froggy enough that he decided to make us an offer to purchase it from them,” Speiser said.

This is also the 10th anniversary of their ownership of the establishment.

In those years, it has taken a lot of help from the staff and support from their families to keep the place running and relevant.

Part of what they are known for is hosting benefits.

Whether that means the annual fundraiser for the fire company or a benefit for a long-time customer and friend who lives with multiple sclerosis, Speiser said it’s part of their mission statement.

“They say, take care of the community and they take care of you,” he said.

Stup added that the employees are an important part of what makes the place what it is.

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“Our employees have been here for years,” she said. “That's one thing that really stands out, compared to other people in the restaurant industry. The people that stay, they are our family.”

Roberts chose the name of the restaurant — Memories — but Stup and Speiser said it’s still appropriate.

“I know my 16 years here I've made an untold amount of memories,” Speiser said.

“Most of the memories of my life are here,” Stup agreed. “It’s half my lifetime. I’ve been working here since I was 18. I’m 36 now. This is my home.”

On the menu, burgers reign supreme. From steaks to ground chuck, all the beef is sourced locally from Wagner’s Meats, a family-owned butcher just down the road at Mt. Airy Locker Co. The chili they make with the ground beef is award-winning. Seafood is also a favorite of customers, and the Memories Charcoal House crab dip recipe has stayed consistent all 25 years.

In the restaurant business, it’s a constant battle to stay innovative and come up with fresh ideas, Stup said. “We have to be the new spot all the time, even though we've been here for 25 years.”

Each year they pick a project to update the restaurant a little bit.

“This place 10 years ago looked completely different,” Speiser said. “It took a long [time] to get close to the vision that we wanted. But it's almost there. It will always be changing and evolving, I guess.”

The restaurant has been doing 25 days of giveaways, leading up to a big silver anniversary giveaway on April 13.

The event happens throughout the day on Saturday with other vendors visiting for giveaways and promotions.

Wine aficionados will be able to purchase special bottles customized for Memories Charcoal House or glassware to match. An engraver will be on site to do custom engraving on the bottles. Even if the day is hot, the drink should be ice cold — the restaurant will have an ice luge for bartenders to pour chilled alcohol down before serving.

Mount Airy Mayor Pat Rockinberg is scheduled to visit at 3 p.m. to cut a ribbon to celebrate the anniversary. That evening, a DJ will entertain guests.

Speiser describes it as “just a way to thank our customers for 25 years of loyal patronage.

“Basically,” he said, “a big, fun party to celebrate, ‘Hey, we're here at 25.’”

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