Becky’s Grocery and Grill turned 10 years old on May 8. There was no celebration.
Not because its owner, Becky Cable, wasn’t happy about the milestone -- she is.
“I was so busy I didn’t have time to think about it,” Cable said. “I honestly didn’t remember it until it was a few days past.”
For the uninitiated, Becky’s is a small restaurant/grocery situated at 3856 Laws Chapel Road in East Blount County. Business people, lawyers, doctors and dentists sit side-by-side with farmers, construction workers and just plain folks. If you need a seat, just tell someone at the “boarding house table” to scoot over.
Becky’s is open three days a week for lunch and dinner plus lunch on Saturday. Cable feeds an average of 500 people during those four days. To that four-day work week, add the hours Cable spends cleaning, preparing the food, shopping and ordering, and you’ll get the 70-plus hours Cable puts into her business each week.
“It’s a lot of hours. Last week we had more than 100 people at lunch each day, and I cooked each one by order and got them in and out,” she said. “Everybody asks, ‘How do you do that?’ and I say, ‘God didn’t make me quick for no reason.’”
Becky is proud of her food, and equally proud of the atmosphere at her establishment.
“Everybody has a ball in here,” she said. “I’m usually stuck in the kitchen with my back to the grocery side while I’m working at the grill, but you hear the din. It’s amazing.”
Servers sit pitchers of sweet tea on the table for people to serve themselves. All walks of life are represented at the tables, and it’s the long boarding house table where the conversation always seems liveliest.
“We just tell them to tell somebody to scoot over if they need a seat,” Cable says. “We’ll get new people from Maryville, Alcoa and West Knoxville, and they can’t believe it,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘We finally found you.’ They know somebody every time they come.”
Cable, 58, has been married to Bill Cable for 39 years, and they have one son, Travis, 35. Travis is married to Jodi Russell Cable, and they have a 5-year-old, Logan.
Becky Cable grew up right behind the store/restaurant that bears her name, and she graduated from Walland High School. When her husband ran a label company in Alcoa, she worked there for several years, designing labels. She also did outside sales and advertising for Blount County artist Lee Roberson.
Her interest in the restaurant business was born in the 1960s when she worked at Joe’s Drive-In on East Lamar Alexander Parkway with owner Andy Huddleston. “Basically I learned some things, and some people say my food tastes just like Joe’s.”
Joe’s is gone, and New Beginnings Beauty Shop is located there now, she said.
Cable’s mom, Vertie White, owns the building where Becky’s Grocery and Grill is located. “Mom had the business from 1973 until 1998. I worked with her for a few years when she first started. It was a grill plus a grocery store,” Cable said. “She retired in 1998, leased it out for two years, and I took it over in 2000.”
Cable said that initially there was the bar and one table where people could eat on the restaurant side, and the grocery took up the rest of the building. “Then I added another table because people were coming for the food and not the groceries, and it kept growing until it was more a restaurant than a grocery,” she said.
The restaurant, which seats 45, has a long table Cable referred to as a boarding house table. “You don’t know everyone who is sitting next to you. It may be someone with a suit on or overalls,” she said. “Everybody loves this table.”
Regardless of where a patron sits, it is usually close quarters and everyone gets to know everybody else while enjoying good food. “I always say if you don’t know someone when you come, you will before you leave,” Cable said.
The restaurant/grocery is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. They stop taking orders 15 minutes before closing each day.
Cable said the business has changed “tremendously in just about every way,” in 10 years. One big difference is in the volume of customers. “I used to call everybody by name as they would come in. Now I may know their face, but not their name. When you get 500 people a week, it is hard to call everybody by name.”
Cable said one aspect that hasn’t changed much is what Becky offers on the menu. “Basically our menu has been the same since I opened. I think I’ve added salads and plate lunches. And my hours have changed,” she said. “I used to do breakfast. I dropped it and added three dinner hours. All the breakfast people are still fussing because I don’t do it.”
The atmosphere is a big draw for customers. “They feel at home. One little boy came in and said, ‘This is like being at Grandma’s house.’ The comments are unreal,” she said. “We have judges, lawyers, doctors and dentists, morticians, teachers, we even have John Ward - the ‘Voice of the Vols.’ He and his wife were here Saturday. Haywood Harris used to come with Gus Manning, and Kenny Chesney’s dad comes. We have a lot of judges who come from Knoxville.”
While the Becky’s Grill menu offers plate lunches of pork tenderloin, catfish, chicken and pulled pork, Cable said the burgers are the draw for most customers. “We have several, but the Ross Burger is very popular. It is our homemade pimento cheese on pumpernickel bread with a four ounce patty, mayo, lettuce, tomato and onion. We toast the pumpernickel with the pimento cheese on it while the burger is cooking,” she said.
They also have Reubens, Patty Melts, ham on rye and pinto beans with corn muffins. “We do a lot of everything. We also have homemade chocolate pie, coconut pie, peanut butter pie, ‘Earthquake Cake’ and banana pudding. Sometimes we’ll throw in something new.”
Cable said what also keeps folks coming back is the people who work at the restaurant. “They love the girls -- our servers Kacie Abbott and Shelley Fagg, and I’ve got to mention my Aunt ‘Bootsie’ Potter,” she said. “She bakes our chocolate and coconut pies. She’s dishwasher, works the cash register and helps the girls serve if they need it. They’re all my right hands, they all are.”
The grocery store, Cable says, is still a viable part of her business. “People still grab stuff off the shelves on their way out.”
As for what she stocks on the grocery store shelves, “I tell them, if I don’t have it, they don’t need it.”
Becky’s Grocery and Grill is located at 3858 Laws Chapel Road, off Hwy. 321 toward Walland. Take Tuckaleechee Pike to Whites Mill Road, then right on Laws Chapel Road. Phone: 865-379-6121.