Private William E. “Bubba” Clark returned home from WWII, picked up his bride, Helena, and their two-year-old baby from grandma’s house and thought, “What Now?” Bubba had grown up in a farming family in Cope, South Carolina, and had always assumed he would be a “Gentleman Farmer”. However, during the war years, much had changed. His father, Winfield, had become ill, had sold most of his land and had retired as an invalid.
A natural-born entrepreneur, Bubba knew that he would never be content with a “regular” job. Not having actually “finished” the University of South Carolina, (where he played rather than studied) further narrowed his options. Old-timers say that Bubba was able to “see the future around the corner”. He and his father had formed Clark Realty before WWII and they had bought a commercial property in Santee, South Carolina. At the time, before I-95, Highway 301 was the most traveled route from New York to Florida. Thinking that folks – families in particular – would travel more, they felt highway property was a sound investment.
Over many objections from Helena, who was not a country girl, Bubba decided to “temporarily” seek his fortune in Santee, South Carolina. The town was a crossroads consisting of three stores, a bus station and a post office surrounded by farmland. To Helena, it seemed impossible “country” and made her small home town of Barnwell, SC seem “metropolitan”. “At least” she used to say, “We have a country club, churches, and a downtown!”
But Bubba assured her, “this is just temporary until something better comes along.” As a mess sergeant in the Army, he thought they could make money by opening a restaurant. So in 1946, the old bus station became Clark’s Restaurant. Then in 1971, with the opening of Interstate 95, the present Clark’s Restaurant was constructed at its current location. Bubba always the businessman, served breakfast in the old Clark’s and lunch in the new! Except for Christmas Day, Clark’s restaurant has been in continuous operation since 1946!
Throughout the years, Bubba became involved in other businesses, but the restaurant business got in his blood. For the rest of his life, you could almost always find him upstairs in his office above the new Clark’s restaurant. Seventy four years later, Clark’s is owned by Bubba’s oldest son, Bill and his wife Tricia. It is managed by Kittie Collier and grandsons Edward and Winfield Clark. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the spirit of both Bubba and Helena is still alive and well. We continue to strive to meet their high standards of Southern hospitality and delicious food.