Hendersonville – Life has changed drastically across the globe since Three Chopt Sandwich Shoppe owner Matthew Rogers sang before huge Cincinnati Reds crowds at two games last summer, but the good samaritan is among brighter beacons in this COVID 19-stricken year.
Rogers is donating a free vanilla ice cream bar to each paying customer through this Saturday, July 25 to mark his “33 years in the restaurant business.” He started the promotion two weeks ahead. By last Sunday, “we’ve given over 100 already.”
During the pandemic this year, he has donated periodic free meals in Three Chopt at 103 Third Ave. E. On May 2, hot dog or chicken tender meals fed 50 local needy children.
Rogers served hot sandwiches to military veterans and others on Memorial Day, to “honor our fallen heroes.” The grilled sandwich offerings were Dearest David (turkey, roast beef) honoring Matthew’s father or else Bountiful Barrett (ham) for his grandfather Col. Barrett Rogers. Both remain on the menu. David Rogers was an Army pilot, a spotter in foggy weather during WWII’s Battle of Bulge.
Radiant Rosy is a grilled chicken sandwich named after Matthews’ wife. He is immortalized by Matty’s Melt. Sweet Sue and Apple Raisin Annie are other chicken salad variants. He said the Annie, named after his mother, is Three Chopt’s top-selling menu item. Lovable Larry (grilled pastrami) is named after his brother. Marvelous Marvin (grilled roast beef, turkey) honors Matthew’s maternal grandfather.
Matthew is the chef, while his wife Rosalina “Rosy” Jarillo is the cashier and “boss out front,” he said. “Rosy (his wife) and I are blessed,” Matthew said. “Giving back to our community feels wonderful. To minister people in any way is very gratifying.” His father David Barrett Rogers was an Episcopal minister. Matthew ran for state senate, a decade and a half ago.
Many people hail Matthew’s bubbly personality, humor, and optimism reflected by his “Never Give Up” armband. “I buckle down. I’m a hard worker,” he said. “I won’t quit.” That includes staying in business during the pandemic, and even handing out food to put others first.
“When you take half of the tables away, it cripples us,” he said of state social distancing rules. “You can barely survive. You’re working for nearly nothing. But it’s good to still be in business. These are trying times economically, that might last two to three years. Even if we get a vaccine this year. It’s scary.”
Yet above all, “I want us to be safe, and to wear masks. Cooking with a mask on is annoying. But I do it” for public health. “It’s a small thing for me, that’s big for others.”
Three Chopt has been in its 2,000-square-foot site on the north side of East Third for 24 years. Jim Young started it Nov. 2, 1981, at 321 N. Main, which became Cypress Cellar.
Rogers took over, starting on New Year’s Day 1990.
Rogers, 61, went to camp in Tuxedo in 1967 and ’68. He moved to Henderson County right after securing a history degree from Florida in 1987. He promptly ran The Village Inn for over two years. It is now Flat Rock Wood Room, at 1501 Greenville Hwy.
This coming Saturday, July 25 marks Rogers’ “33 years in the restaurant business,” he noted. “It’s a legacy.” Few downtown-area restaurants have lasted in that span. Alykat Deli opened in 1974. Steve Katsadouros opened Hot Dog World in 1986. “Steve’s the hot dog king,” Rogers said. “I’m the sandwich king.”
Three Chopt is around the corner from Hannah Flanagan’s and mid-block on Third East — between Main and the busy Azalea public parking lot. People park then walk by Three Chopt to Main.
Peestrians walking northward on Main’s east side can clearly see Three Chopt (on the north side) when glancing down Third East.
Two dining tables right outside Three Chopt clue there is an eatery there, for those walking southward on Main and looking left onto Third Avenue.
Three Chopt’s name stems from Native Americans marking a trail in Virginia with three chops of a tomahawk on trees every so often. That path is Route 64, long known as The King’s Highway.
The Tomahawk Chop is done by fans of baseball’s Atlanta Braves, and Florida State Seminoles in football. It would be sacrilegious for 1984 Florida Gator grad Rogers to do the chop.
Matthew’s hometown Cincinnati Red Stockings are the earliest continuous major league franchise, dating back to 1869. They won their opener 45-9. The Big Red Machine of the Seventies is among the greatest sports dynasties.
Imagine his thrill fulfilling a “fantasy dream,” by singing at two Reds games in 2019. Tom Fazio, noted golf course designer, convinced Reds owner Bob Castellini to screen a CD from Rogers.
Rogers sang the pre-game national anthem in a trio on May 5, 2019 — with fellow local Reds super fans Phillip Wiehe and Steve Johnson. “We hit those high notes” and stayed in harmony, Rogers said. He wore a Tony Perez jersey.
Rogers returned on Aug. 16, singing “God Bless America” solo during the “seventh-inning stretch.” He called it an “honor to sing at those games. I love my country and the Reds.”
Rogers is 6-foot-2. He was on horseback riding scholarship at Sanford Prep in Delaware in 1974-77. He returned to Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands where his parents taught for years, and again after a stint in 1979-81 as an Arkansas Razorback student and baseball student manager.
Three Chopt’s hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11-4. Call 692-0228 for more information, or check the Three Chopt Sandwich Shoppe Facebook page.