All was quiet inside The Grind Café in downtown Morganton on Tuesday afternoon. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, whispers turned to shouts and clapping began. 

There wasn’t a show going on inside — there just was a man going by outside. But that man was Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper spent his Tuesday afternoon touring the streets of downtown Morganton, eating at a local restaurant and stopping inside small businesses after celebrating Continental’s 25th anniversary of production in the morning.

“Thank you,” one woman shouted from inside The Grind. “We’ve got your back.”

The café was not a planned stop on the tour, but Cooper walked inside to greet the customers. 

“(Morganton is) a place for tourism, it’s a place where people want to come and live,” Cooper said. “The people of Morganton and Burke County should be very proud.”

And local officials admitted they were proud of Morganton as they showed Cooper some of downtown’s highlights.

The first stop was Root & Vine, where Cooper and his representatives ate with Mayor Ronnie Thompson, City Manager Sally Sandy and Main Street Morganton Director Sharon Jablonski.

“Lunch (was) a great highlight,” Cooper said. “And then coming and seeing the different kinds of shops down here, the craftsmanship that’s there.”

Cooper got a taste of the craftsmanship during his first stop after lunch — Oak Hill Iron. During the stop, Cooper asked about the different pieces of art that were on display and played with a dog inside.

The group then went to the newly renovated Community House before taking a walk down Union Street. Cooper bought his wife a gift from The Natural Olive and also stopped in Brown Mountain Bottleworks, Homer’s Soda Shop and The Kitchen Connection.

“What a great, great store here,” Cooper said at The Kitchen Connection. “This is fantastic.”

Cooper took time to take photos with people downtown and said he enjoyed meeting the citizens of Morganton.

“It’s amazing what’s happening here,” he said.

Ryan Wilusz is a staff writer and can be reached at or 828-432-8941.

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