Of all the surprises on this year’s Anniversary getaway, the biggest one came at the end when we learned that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe babysat our host. I am getting a little ahead of the story that happened on February 28, 2022. While this was an ordinary day for most, for my husband Bert and I, February 28th marks our 35th Wedding Anniversary and we wanted an adventure.
After watching marriages crumble around me, starting with my parents when I was 19-years-old, I want to celebrate each year of my marriage to Bert. We started with a getaway the first year to the Poconos. For our 25th wedding anniversary, we took the family, including my mother-in-law, on a Caribbean cruise. Some years we’ve stayed closer to home and explored North Carolina Bed and Breakfasts or just celebrated with a dinner out.
Bert wanted this year’s Anniversary Adventure to be a surprise and he only told me that it was about an hour away and we would be staying overnight. I haven’t driven southbound on HWY 55 in a long time and was amazed at how much the area in Apex and Holly Springs has grown. We drove just a little farther to Fuquay-Varina. I was excited about this destination because I have great memories of working on a senior task force with Police Chief Laura L. Fahnestock and Mayor John W. Byrne. Both of these incredible Fuquay-Varina leaders retired this year and I wanted to see the impact their work had on the community.
We started with lunch at the Vicious Fishes. I had the homemade broccoli and cheese soup with a notorious BLT – delicious – and enjoyed the Here Be Dragons IPA. Bert had the fish and chips – best ever – and Into the Abyss Brown Ale. Following the meal, we wobbled – I mean walked – to the first downtown district area and discovered lovely shops while we studied menus of other restaurants to figure out the best spot for dinner.
The extra surprise on the walk was going into Ashworth’s Clothing and talking about the family connection to Ashworth Drugs in Cary. I didn’t realize our friend Ralph Ashworth was one of 9 kids and that his business savvy is a family trait. Ashworth’s Clothing first opened in September of 1937 by Rufus and Cornelia Ashworth and the store has been in the family for three generations. From men’s t-shirts to tuxedos and everything in-between, Ashworth’s is worth the drive from Cary as they are having a 70% off sale!
The big reveal was having a room in The Fuquay Inn. This Colonial Revival Inn with Carriage House & Garden is a local historic landmark and situated across the street from the Historic Fuquay Mineral Spring Park. After we checked into the Carriage House that has incredible artwork including ones painted by June Carey, we had champagne on the patio area. To my delight, there are two B & B cats that happily hung out in the sunshine with us.
We then had an amazing massage from Mary Teal, owner of Heart and Hand Massage. Mary filled me in on more of the details on the Fuquay Inn and its owner, former F-V Mayor John W. Byrne. That little detail explained the memorabilia in the room of the New York Yankees. John’s father is Tommy Byrne, a starting pitcher for the Yankees and three other American League teams. Fun fact about Tommy Byrne is that he also served as the Mayor of Wake Forest, North Carolina from 1973 to 1987 and his wife, Mary Susan Nichols Byrne, was a Wake County School board member for 10 years.
All the background helped me to re-meet our gracious Inn host John W. Byrne who told us more about Fuquay-Varina and then made dinner reservations for us at Garibaldi. The next morning, we were treated to a delicious breakfast with fresh fruits and then went on another walkabout that took us to Cultivate Coffee and the chance to see Bill Fletcher, a sweet friend who recently moved from Cary.
At the end of our staycation, John gave us a tour of the Fuquay Inn and that was when I learned that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio once babysat John. Hearing the stories of what it was like growing up with a father on the New York Yankees was entertaining.
Our visit to Fuquay-Varina was a delight. We enjoyed getting to know Patty, John’s wife, who teaches English at Campbell University. John is a natural born story-teller and I won’t spoil the other surprises in store for you when you book a weekend at The Fuquay Inn.
About John W. Byrne
When John Byrne moved in 1973 to Fuquay-Varina with his wife Patty, most of the storefronts on main street were empty. In 2000, Byrne was elected to Mayor and served for 20 years. His leadership and attention to detail has successfully grown the downtown area and beyond to becoming a destination spot. “I believe a mayor needs to be engaged in the community.” One of the ways Byrne gets involved with the community is by walking 5 miles a day and stopping to talk with the people he meets along the way.
Byrne stepped down as Mayor of Fuquay-Varina in 2021. Under his leadership the town saw unprecedented growth and success.
- Population grew from 8,000 to 40,000
- Two thriving downtown districts.
- $50 Million in grants for projects like park development and transportation
- AAA bond rating for Fuquay-Varina
This area seems to grow by twos; two communities and two downtown areas.
Fuquay Springs and Varina, joined in 1963 to form one municipality to become Fuquay-Varina. The little dash that connects the two names is now the logo for the town that is a dash more of the unexpected in town that offers something extra-special.
Two downtown areas offer a mix of shops, breweries, and restaurants. It’s a little tricky to walk to the two sections, but well worth it with Aviator Brewery offering up the best on tap and in the smokehouse in the section just beyond the railroad tracks. The area closer to the Fuquay Inn offers more restaurants and unique shops including Ashworth’s Clothing.