After much thought, prayer, and deliberation, our family restaurant Marcy Jo's Mealhouse has closed its doors permanently, after 17 years of being in operation...
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to hold something together, it can’t be done. And you have to let it go. Between the residual impact from the Covid pandemic, soaring food prices, the deteriorating building, and a hundred other factors, what worked before just doesn’t work anymore.
And so, although the sign was originally put on the door temporarily, just until the broken pipes inside could be thawed and fixed, it’s not going to come down. We made the decision a few days ago that the restaurant is closed for good and the land and building will be going up for sale.
To say that making the choice to close the Mealhouse was hard is an understatement. That rundown old building has meant so much to my sister, our family, and the community for so long. It’s incredibly difficult to say goodbye to something that has had such a big impact on all of our lives. When Marcy and Joey opened Marcy Jo’s in January 2007 and began using their well-known slogan ‘changing lives… one bite at a time’, I don’t think they, or any of us had any idea how much that little restaurant was going to change our own lives. Truly, none of us are the same, and none of our lives have been the same since.
But as disappointed as we are to see the cafe come to an end, there’s also an incredible sigh of relief that we all feel. Like a heavy weight has been lifted off of all of our shoulders, especially my sister Marcy who has carried the majority of the load since my wife Joey (her sister-in-law and business partner) passed away in early 2016. And sadly, after many years of the restaurant being a blessing to her, the Mealhouse had become a tremendous burden for Marcy. The joy that she had known in running the restaurant, seemed harder and harder to find without Joey by her side. And so like all good things, this too has found its end.
The end of an era
As fate would have it, the restaurant began at a kitchen table, and it also ended at one.
In the Fall of 2007, Joey, Marcy, and myself were sitting around the kitchen table at our farmhouse having coffee, when Marcy brought up the idea of her and Joey putting a cafe in the empty run-down general store just up the road that they could own and run together. At the time, Joey’s dreams of being a singer like her hero Dolly Parton were still eluding her, and she had extra time on her hands. And so she, and we all, thought it might be fun to do, and maybe it would help us to meet some of our neighbors, and for our neighbors to meet some of the other folks in the community too. And boy has that happened, along with a thousand other beautiful things we could've never dreamed of.
And then this past Friday, exactly 17 years after Marcy Jo's opened (this time around my sister Candy’s kitchen table), we had a small family meeting and together we raised our coffee mugs and celebrated the accomplishment of running a family cafe for all these years. And, after months of us all talking about it, the decision was made that the broken water pipes were the least of the restaurant's problems, and that the best thing we can do is leave the "closed" sign up and begin the process of selling it.
And so the old building and the two acres of land it sits on is for sale. If you know someone interested, they can reach out to my brother-in-law Keith at email@example.com or give him a call at (615) 476-5276, as he, and we are helping Marcy wade through the process of ending this special chapter in all of our lives. In the next week or two, Marcy is planning to announce a day when some of the items inside will be for sale (potentially tables, chairs, restaurant items, and some memorabilia), to anyone who's interested in them. She, and we, will share that info on our socials once that date has been chosen.
A look back in time
It's hard to explain what a special part the restaurant has played in our lives over the last nearly twenty years. There are so many memories packed inside that little place. Not just on the walls (and there are a lot of them there), but also the food that's been served, the joy that's been shared, and the lives that have been touched and changed by the little cafe. On a personal level, it’s where most of our kids worked during their teenage years, and from time-to-time in their twenties, when they needed to pick up a shift or we were short on help. And it’s where our mother pitched in and bused tables after she settled into a little house just a few steps from the cafe. In many ways, it’s the place where Joey's and my music career began—where the idea of us singing together was born—not in our minds, but in someone else's who happened to come in for lunch one day. Marcy Jo's story is part of so many other stories. It’s the spot where I made my first real storytelling video, and later where we filmed fifty-something cooking segments for our TV show from 2012-2014. We’ve made music videos there. Overstock.com commercials. It’s been featured on Tennessee Crossroads and in dozens of magazine articles. It was the setting for a funny long-forgotten TV pilot we made, and another one that Heidi Klum and Seal filmed in 2011 that never came out. It’s where we first hosted the popular songwriter nights that we still do. People have gotten married there. Gotten engaged. We’ve prayed with customers and grieved over them when they passed. It’s been bitterly cold inside in the winter and brutally hot in the summer. The floorboards have holes in them and lean hard to south, just like the building. When a truck ran into the side of Marcy Jo’s in 2009, it just shook a couple of times and leaned the other way. That old restaurant is a piece of history, that is now a piece of our history.
Joey would be proud of Marcy and how hard she worked to keep it open, even after her heart was no longer in it. And I believe that if she were here, Joey would make the same decision. The world has done a lot of turning since 2007. All of our lives and our priorities have changed, and we have to have the nerve to do hard things, even when the unknown up-ahead is a bit scary.
The end… is always the beginning
Like a lot of people who've known deep loss and heartbreak personally, I think God has blessed me with an understanding that whenever something ends, something else begins. And often, the deeper our pain is for our loss, the greater the joy is for what comes along. It’s when we trust in God the most. And again and again, I have been completely blown away by the windows God opens in the wake of a door that He has just closed.
And so as we let this dream go, we are anxious to see what God has in store. Who knows what that run-down little building might become now? Or if someone will put something else there on that land in its spot that somehow is an even bigger blessing to our neighbors and community.
Not to mention what lies in store for my sister Marcy. She’s only a year or two younger than me and, like all of us who have done a good bit of living, has learned that life is short, and each moment we’re given is precious, and not to be taken for granted. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.
Thank you to everyone who has helped to make Marcy Jo’s what it became. Everyone through the years who has supported this dream by coming to the cafe and eating. Everyone who has worked at the restaurant over the years to make it the best dining experience possible.
If you would, please pray for us during this time of transition. That we would take the best, next right steps. Pray for the employees that this change has impacted. Pray for the little spot on the corner, that the right people and the right business finds its way there.