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Five generations find their way Back Home

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By Robert Villanueva

For five generations of one family, going to work simply means going Back Home.

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Back Home Restaurant has a long history of family members — men, women, boys and girls — chipping in to make the business successful. But family members trace the beginning and the future to women.

“We’ve had a lot of help ... but it’s mostly women who keep it rolling,” said Linda Fulkerson, the restaurant’s owner.

“We’re the backbone,” Fulkerson’s granddaughter, Hali Spiers, said.

Fulkerson and her mother, Lola Allen, began the business selling their crafts out of the trunk of Fulkerson’s car about 30 years ago. They gained a following and opened a store in 1984, which they soon outgrew.

At their second location they noticed the husbands of the women who shopped their store were not as interested in shopping, so they began serving pie and coffee.

When they opened in their present location in 1989, they included a restaurant with their crafts shop. The restaurant had five tables, and the menu consisted of beans, cornbread, chicken salad and peach cobbler.

“We never intended to have a restaurant, ever,” Fulkerson said.

Eventually, the business evolved to include catering at a separate location. Fulkerson now works on that side of the business.

“I don’t know how that developed, either,” Fulkerson said.

Fulkerson’s daughter, Lori Fulkerson, now runs the restaurant. Over the years, some things have changed.

Mostly gone are the crafts that were the foundation of the business, but Linda Fulkerson said that is the result of changing tastes.

“Now it’s mostly restaurant,” she said.

Allen, who now uses a wheelchair, said she missed making crafts.

“It seems like it was so much fun back then,” Allen said. “It was a ball.”

Memorial teddy bears created for customers, who supplied material from clothing or other fabric that was significant to someone who died, were some of Allen’s favorite crafts.

Despite some changes, one thing that has remained constant is the food. That is because of their customers, Spiers said.

“Customers, if we make changes, they remind us we have to go back,” she said.

Lori Fulkerson said the key to the business is family. All four of her children were required to work at the restaurant when they turned 14, and Fulkerson believes it taught them important lessons, such as how to budget their finances.

“It made my children good people,” Fulkerson said.

Lori Fulkerson’s daughter, Hali Spiers, agreed.

“If it wasn’t for starting here I wouldn’t have made it on my own,” Spiers said. “This taught me life.”

Spiers opened a shop on the second floor of Back Home Restaurant called O’Neals Boutique, which sells women’s clothing.

“This is what I always wanted to do,” Spiers said.

Already the next generation has begun training.

Spiers’ daughter, Tatum, 5, began helping around the restaurant when she was 3. Spending time around the restaurant, Tatum noticed how the business operated and took it uon herself to pitch in when customers arrived.

“She would walk up to them and say, ‘How many?’” Lori Fulkerson said.

“The other day she waited on a lady pretty much all by herself,” Spiers said.

In the past two years, Tatum also has tried mastering the cash register, Fulkerson said.

“I came in one day, and there was a $12 million sale on it,” she said. “We had to void it.”

The family aspect of the business extends to employees, too.

“They treat you like family,” 22-year employee Janet Thomas said. “I feel like family.”

Thomas nodded toward Tatum, who stood nearby.

“She’s my future boss if I’m still around,” Thomas said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

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