“It is scientifically impossible to leave here unsatisfied.”
–Staggs’s Customer Taylor Smith
Less than five short miles from The Factory is a diner so well known in the Shoals community, locals simply call is “Staggs”—no elaboration is necessary. It is a place where social and economic barriers are ignored or discarded; everyone eats at Staggs, from mayor to millworker.
Staggs Grocery is located in East Florence, Alabama, an area that was once proud home to a booming textile district. The same family has run the market for generations. Taylor Wylie established the business as a meat market over a century ago, but the building was destroyed by fire. It was taken over by Wylie’s son in law, Lester D. Staggs, Sr., and his brother Webb Staggs and revamped into a meat market and grocery catering to families and workers in the textile district. Lynn Staggs, who currently owns and operates Staggs with his wife Pat, took over management after the passing of his father, L.D. Staggs, Sr.
East Florence, also known as Sweetwater Mills, or the Sweetwater District, has transformed from its founding in the early 1800s, when textile mills sustained entire families by producing shirts and socks. Textile mills across the region relocated, putting communities out of work. That coupled with the influx of “super” markets in the early 1980’s, left Staggs Grocery struggling to survive. The business kept afloat by delivering groceries to the elderly and those without access to a vehicle. But Lynn and Pat knew it would take more than this to sustain the business. Their solution: a diner.
The diner started off as just a griddle among the groceries, but slowly expanded to become the unofficial community center it is today. Visitors asking where the locals eat will almost always be directed here. The building itself is almost of another time. The façade looks exactly as it did decades ago: a basic storefront with a metal awning and an unadorned sign. The interior is a mix of modern and rustic; plastic tables sit underneath a pressed tin ceiling. Inside you will find a complete lack of pretension—a mix of young and old diners and, next to the griddle, a notorious table of regulars often referred to as “The Liars Club.”
The food at Staggs is made-to-order using fresh ingredients and cooked on a flattop griddle, giving it a distinct home cooked flavor. You can’t go wrong with any of the breakfast offerings; the eggs and bacon, omelets, and biscuits are all satisfying. At lunch you can enjoy the massive, absolutely revered Staggs hamburger, cooked to order—to your exact specifications. (For the record, Staggs’s burger was fourth in a recent AL.com North Alabama’s top Cheeseburger poll.) The menu at Staggs extends beyond burgers, too. There are many breakfast and lunch options, including everyone’s favorite, biscuits and chocolate gravy (served only on Fridays).
1424 Huntsville Road
Florence, AL 35630
Monday – Friday, 5:30am – 2:00pm
Photos courtesy of Robert Rausch