I live near Lebanon, TN, the Mecca of the Cracker Barrel organization. With over 600 stores in 42 states, this is no small chain of comfort food stores, but it is unique in that its customers come back again and again for the home-cooked food, the service, reasonable prices, the country store, the come-on-in-and-set-awhile ambience – and something else. That something else is the bond between the people who work in the restaurant and the shop and the people who keep coming back as customers.
I love our local Cracker Barrel for all these reasons and for one more very important reason – it’s a place where I can write.
Sure, it can be noisy there, but that makes me focus on my writing. Or it can be having a short lull – which gives me the opportunity to look around and see the salt-of-the-Earth people that come in. Cracker Barrel stores were originally built to serve the highway/interstate transient population, and I think it was a bit of a surprise when it became THE place for the locals to come, some every day, to visit with friends (meet me at the Cracker Barrel!), try out a new dish (the Chicken Pot Pie is incredible!), talk business (I’ve heard many an interview that went well because the Cracker Barrel is a very comfortable place to be) and form relationships with the servers and the people who work in the store.
In fact, one of the servers actually encouraged me to publish the myriad of poems I had written at the Cracker Barrel. Every time I went in, purse and notebook in tow, she would ask me how the book was coming along. Gentle pressure, but I knew she cared, and I figured if she cared, others might care, too.
Most of the servers have been there awhile, so I get to enjoy their company, and sometimes their comments. But they are among the most focussed-on-service people you will ever meet! Each customer’s needs are anticipated and the goal is to get the product to the customer almost before they know what they want! I have told my husband more than once that I think the tables are bugged because all I have to do is say “Ya know, I could use a refill of coffee/iced tea…” and my server will be setting the cup/glass down before me. The service really is remarkable…
You will love the celebrations going on in the shop as the seasons are highlighted! Even though they do put up their Christmas trees a bit early for me, it sure makes you feel warm and happy when you come in the store! My very favorite time to go to Cracker Barrel is not a holiday but a season. I truly love Winter there because the huge fireplace is filled with real wood, which is lighted early and is kept glowing through the late evening. I always ask for (and will wait for) a table closest to the fireplace, and maybe this most recent poem will show you why.
I watch the fire go from new logs,
with flames spitting blue and yellow,
To the dull red and gold
of pulsating embers…
Someone stirs the new logs,
repositioning them for maximum burn,
and the flames
perform a lively dance!
as the fire dies down,
and burning bits of wood drop into the ashes,
the constant irregularity of it,
and I am fascinated…
I am watching the embers glow
still full of fire,
their impact diminished only by Time…
Long ago, someone came
And moved me
So that I could
Then you came,
Not so long ago,
And stirred me
So that flames leaped up,
And bits of fire
Filled with the hotness of desire,
Fell down into the ashes
of my first love…
And now I pulsate
And I glow
Remembering the fire
And the desire
That you both
stirred in me.