The former owner of Greenville’s historic Northgate Soda Shop, Jimmy DeYoung, died at his home on Sept. 7. He was 80 years old.
Northgate has been a fixture on N. Main St. since it opened in 1947. DeYoung purchased the business in 1965. Throughout his years of ownership, he filled it with old soda bottles, model boats, traffic lights and photos. DeYoung ran the business for 41 years before selling the business to attorney Catherine Christophillis and retiring in 2006.
Current owner Ren Bell and his wife, Iris, have operated the shop since Oct. 1, 2009. However, Bell knew DeYoung from years before.
“My wife always wanted to own a restaurant, so when I retired she had the opportunity to buy it,” said Bell.
Following his retirement, he would still meet friends for coffee at the Northgate Soda Shop’s round table to talk each morning. In the 11 years since the Bells took over the business, they have seen the group of friends dwindle from eight or nine to three people. For each person who has died, Northgate has put a nameplate on the table. DeYoung’s name will be added as well, Bell said.
In addition to being a friend, DeYoung served as a mentor for the Bells as they navigated the new waters of owning a restaurant.
“He was our mentor because he had run this business for 41 years,” said Bell. “Any time we had a question about anything, he would answer it and tell us who to call. He kind of guided us through this.”
Ultimately, Bell remembers DeYoung as a great, helpful man.
“He was always joking about something,” Bell said. “Just a great guy and helped everybody he could. We’re going to miss him.”
DeYoung is survived by his wife, two daughters and five grandchildren.
A memorial service for DeYoung will be held Sept. 20, at 2 p.m. at Earle Street Baptist Church, 225 W. Earle St. in Greenville.