Melvin Garrett's dream was to own a restaurant.
So after he and his wife, Elizabeth, bought a Jessup restaurant at auction in 1955, they got to work. Their creation -- the Log Cabin Restaurant -- is now believed to be the oldest black-owned restaurant in Howard County and one that has a loyal following coast to coast.
Mr. Garrett died after suffering a heart attack Friday at age 81. His son said he lived to fulfill his dream of creating a successful restaurant.
"I think he left this world doing what he loved doing," Samuel Garrett said.
Melvin Garrett was visiting his cardiologist at Howard County General Hospital when he died, said his son, who was with him.
A wake is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to noon Friday at First Christian Community Church, 8111 Hicks Road. A funeral will follow.
The Garretts in 1958 bought out their business partner and began building a loyal following of customers that stretched across the country without benefit of advertising or a business phone.
Many of the restaurant's customers are truck drivers who tell one another about the Log Cabin in their travels through the Midwest, California and Florida.
In a Feb. 19 article published in The Sun, Melvin Garrett said his home-cooked meals kept customers coming back for more.
"It's the good food," Mr. Garrett said. "It's what we serve and what we specialize in. It's known coast to coast."
The menu includes scrapple and eggs, barbecue ribs and smothered pork chops.
The restaurateur learned his trade working in Pullman dining cars, and hotels and restaurants in Alabama and Washington, D.C.
When he bought the restaurant on Route 1, Mr. Garrett changed its name from Brookside to Log Cabin because the building was originally made of logs. He remodeled the building several years ago, expanding its dining room and refurbishing the kitchen and restrooms, but he retained the building's original facade.
When Mr. Garrett suffered a heart attack in 1991, he was forced to slow down and do less work in the kitchen. "He was very energetic and dynamic before his health problems," Samuel Garrett said.
After the heart attack, Mr. Garrett would sit under a tree overlooking the restaurant, watching his son and wife run things. He missed preparing meals, his son said.
"He used to sit down under the tree, and he'd say, 'Boy, you're busy today,' " his son recalled. "He wished he could be here."
The restaurant is closed for the rest of the week but will return to its regular hours Monday.