Rock Hill restaurant preserves legacy of ‘Friendship 9’

ROCK HILL, S.C. — When customers sit at the counter of this Rock Hill restaurant, they’ll get a unique dining experience — a menu full of inventive dishes at a location steeped in history — and that’s exactly what owner and chef Rob Masone set out to accomplish.

The spot at 135 East Main Street is part of the city’s history.

In 1961, African American students from nearby Friendship Junior College staged a sit-in at the segregated lunch counter known as McCrory’s Five and Dime at the time. The men were immediately arrested after ordering their food and sentenced to pay a $100 fine each or spend 30 days in jail.

The students chose jail time, and the event along with the subsequent treatment of the men, who became known as the “Friendship Nine,” gained national attention.

“We wanted to showcase the story and showcase the counter, and really get people involved in what happened here,” Masone said. “History tends to repeat itself when you forget what’s happened in the past.”

The original stools are still in place at Kounter, and tributes to the brave men and women who were a part of the Civil Rights moment are displayed throughout the restaurant.

“It’s an emotional experience, so you get so much more than just a meal here,” Masone said.

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