A mule-drawn wagon charges tourists $5 a head for a tour of Mt. Airy, North Carolina — Andy Griffith’s home town and the inspiration for Mayberry, the fictional town where Andy Taylor — Griffith’s character in the long-running television series — served as sheriff.
But Griffith left Mt. Airy long ago, his show fades in the memory of many — although it still shows up in the middle of the afternoon newscasts of Channel 7 in Roanoke — and fewer busloads of tourists visit the town now.
“Streets used to be packed here,” says one local resident as she sits on a bench along Main Street. “Not any more.”
Like many areas that depend on tourists, Mt. Airy struggles to redefine itself as aging fans of its main draw die off but Surry County’s economy is so hard hit that even the contract post office in nearby White Plains closes at the end of the month.
“It wasn’t cost effective,” Carl Watson of the USPS told the Mt. Airy News. “We were losing money at that location. It’s a tough economy.”