L.V. Cox, a longtime A & P grocery manager and host at Atlanta Bread Co., now Look Rock Bakery and Pizzeria, is retiring.
The only son in a family of eight children, L.V., 78, grew up in Blount County, graduated from Everett High School and worked in the grocery business for years before he helped accountant Mike Whitlock open Atlanta Bread Co. in May of 2001. L.V. worked as a host and was often the first person to greet guests by name as they walked into the restaurant.
“It won’t be the same around here without L.V. He provided continuity going from Atlanta Bread Co. to Look Rock,” Robert Russell said. “You got greeted by name at the front door and wished a good day as you left.”
Atlanta Bread Co., or ABC, as the restaurant was known, closed in June of 2007. When Andy Conatser reopened the restaurant as Look Rock Bakery and Pizzeria in January, he recruited L.V. to work as host. Co-workers dubbed the front corner table as “L.V.’s Corner”.
About 50 family and friends showed up Tuesday morning to wish L.V. well in retirement. He seemed surprised by the crowd that filled the restaurant.
“You all over-do it,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m very surprised. It makes me very humble and proud, too.”
L.V.’s wife, Martha, said he didn’t think many folks would show up for the party even though she reassured him a crowd would be on hand. “He said, ‘You’re going to be disappointed,’ and I said, ‘You’re going to be shocked,’” Martha Cox said.
L.V.’s sister Mary Sue Tipton said it was wonderful he was retiring. His other sister Patsy Hutson said L.V. isn’t the type to attract attention. “I think right now he’s ready to go out the door,” she said.
Tipton echoed that thought. “This is not like him. I had to talk him into it. I just begged him. I said, ‘Your friends want to honor you and tell you how much they love you,’” she said.
Conatser gave L.V. a picture of himself with several of the regulars known as The Breakfast Club or The Committee because they can be found every morning sitting in the same table debating politics or just giving one another a hard time. The two pictures were signed by the members of The Committee. One went home with L.V. while the other will be posted in the hall at Look Rock.
It was politics that often created humorous moments between the regulars and L.V., even after the restaurant reopened earlier this year.
Russell said L.V. often would come over and ask the members of The Committee interesting questions. “It usually had something to do with Republicans and Democrats. He’s a strong Democrat, and we’re predominately Republicans, so we had a little political give-and-take every morning,” Russell said. “We all enjoyed it, and it was all very positive. He could give as good as he got.”
Several of the regulars joked that they expected Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander and President George W. Bush to show for the retirement party. “For a Democrat, he was awful loveable,” Lynn Kidd said with a laugh. “We’re sorry Lamar could not come.”
Sen. Alexander did send his regards and friends told L.V. to expect a letter from the senator soon. Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham was in a meeting in Knoxville and sent his regrets and best wishes to L.V.
“We wouldn’t have been able to get in the door this morning if we could have gotten the word out,” Conatser said. “But L.V. wouldn’t let us tell anyone except the regulars we see daily. He’s so humble and doesn’t like to draw attention to himself.”
Former State Rep. Bo Henry said he dated one of L.V.’s sisters when he was a teen. “I thought I’d be a member of the family until they found out I was a Republican,” Henry said as the crowd laughed. “He comes from a great family. We all love L.V. We’re going to miss him.”
Henry said he has known L.V. since they went to high school at Everett High. “L.V. is one of those people who has an infectious personality,” Henry said. “You remember him and want to be around him.”
While everyone had a good laugh, there were poignant moments as everyone shared their thoughts about the longtime grocery store manager, restaurant host and friend.