Narrow and winding are the roads leading to Becky’s Grocery & Grill. To get there from downtown Maryville, you’ll start out by heading south towards the mountain ridges. Veer east after you’ve passed the 200-year-old college on the hill. Keep heading southeast past the farms and the trailers.
Make a left at the half-collapse two-story barn, dangling in and swaying in the wind. Look for the road with mansions and stables on the right side, and rusted junk-yards and campers on the left. When you’ve passed the field of rusted old farm equipment with ancient tractors half sunk into the earth, you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction.
Don’t be distracted with the hand painted signs showing arrows that lead way to the countless churches and chapels, which pepper the landscape. These old mountain roads flow in-and-out of the hollers, and one can’t be too focused on a GPS; you’ll crash.
One shouldn’t even attempt to text; you’ll crash. This is where people live who value space and privacy. This is where people live who don’t want to get caught up in a world changing too rapidly for comprehension. This is where you’ll find Becky’s Grocery & Grill, same as it ever was or close enough for comfort.
“Back in the day we had a gas pump out in front of where that porch is now. We had all kinds of varied products from fresh ground cornmeal to motor oil,” Said Travis Cable, Third Generation owner. “When my mom took over in 1999 she renamed it ‘Becky’s,’ and that’s when we started focusing more of the food we serve.”
Cable and his wife Jodi have been the sole proprietor of the business for a little over a year after Becky Cable retired.
“Yeah, I was looking to make a career change after 20 years of welding and fabricating. Keeping the business in the family seemed like the best way to preserve what I think is a historical landmark,” Said Cable.
Cable has always valued the historical significance of the region and has started investigating historical businesses in Appalachia. The Mt. Nebo Inn was once a very popular resort in the area close to where Becky’s is now. In a binder on a shelf behind the register, Cable is collecting the information, images, and old documents that his research discovers.
“There so much culture here,” explains Cable. “I just find it fascinating.” Carpeting, the large picnic table, mounted trophy game, antiques, collectables, signed autographs, and family pictures are just a few of the elements that make this eatery feel like a home.
With an evolving emphasis on the grill side of Becky’s Grocery & Grill, the random hodgepodge of what groceries and holiday cards that are still available for purchase have been whittled down to the essentials. In their replacement, the shelves have been filled with family heirlooms.
The establishment has gone through many changes over the years. In 1971, Becky Cable’s parents bought and opened the doors as White’s grocery. Before that, the business and building was built by a man named Ken Sullivan in 1943.
“Back when Sullivan owned the grocery it was much smaller. Him and his wife lived in the back room and sold canned goods out of the front room. I’ve only ever heard it referred to as Sullivan’s Grocery, and I can’t remember if it had another name back then,” said Cable.
During a short visit to Becky’s, one can expect to see a menagerie of people from all walks of life.
“We get all kinds of folks in here. Young folks, old folks, locals, people from Maryville and Walland, bankers and layers, just all types of people come through,” explained Cable. Maybe it’s the sense of familiarity or the simplicity that draw customers to the remote location so far out in the woods.
Places like this are hard to come by. The magic of Becky’s restaurant starts with the simple and humble layout that breaks down societal barriers. It invites guests to sit together like family. This is somewhat strange in today’s world, but it is a very welcoming feeling.
As a first-time customer, it takes a few minutes to get used to. In fact, during my first visit to Becky’s, I was sitting alone at my table all but four minutes until I was invited by a fellow guest to share our meal together at her table. The world has too little of these types of places that nurture real connections between individuals.