Pedro tips his sombrero to beer laws, stuffed animals

“South of the Border… happened by accident. In 1949 the adjoining North Carolina county voted itself dry and [Alan] Schafer, the Miller beer distributor thereabouts, suddenly found himself long on stock and short on retailers. So he bought three acres on the state line, planted a pink 18- by 36-foot cinder-block shack there and called it South of the Border Beer Depot….

“Schafer got… the state liquor folks… off his back by swapping ‘Beer Depot’ for ‘Drive-In’ and building a diner, its menu a short list of sandwiches. ‘Grilled cheese. Grilled ham. Peanut butter and jelly,’ he recalled when I visited him years later….

“So it may have stayed, a simple outlet for Miller beer, had a salesman not run out of cash one night in the early ’50s, wandered into the diner and pitched a deal: If Schafer gave him enough money to reach New York, he would hand over all of his samples. Schafer walked outside to the man’s station wagon. It was filled with stuffed animals. Schafer bought them, ‘took about a five-times markup, and I put these animals on all the shelves,’ he said. and in three weeks they were gone. ‘And I said: Jesus.’ ”

— From “Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways” by Earl Swift (2011)

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