Back Home Restaurant got its start in the trunk of a car.
Now located at 251 West Dixie Avenue, the restaurant evolved out of a craft business started in the 1970s by Linda Fulkerson and her mother, Lola “Nanny” Allen.
The women were making crafts and selling them out of the car trunk and doing quite well. As business increased, Fulkerson decided to give up the car and move into a rented two-room storefront. Before long, they outgrew the space. Then they outgrew the next space she rented.
In the late 1980s, Fulkerson and her family bought the 1872 house on West Dixie Avenue. It was perfect for displaying antiques and handmade décor.
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The business attracted many female shoppers, who often brought their husbands. To keep the men busy while their wives shopped, Fulkerson set up a couple of tables and served beans and corn bread, pimento cheese sandwiches and pie.
Before long, people were coming in for lunch. And the restaurant portion of the shop got so busy that Fulkerson’s husband, Tommy, would come in on his lunch break from Coca-Cola to serve.
More and more tables had to be set up and more and more food prepared. Soon the craft business turned into a restaurant.
“This house was never intended to be a restaurant,” said Lori Fulkerson, Linda’s daughter. Lori runs the downtown restaurant, and her mother and brother Jamie Fulkerson operate Back Home Catering at another location.
Lori Fulkerson’s husband, Steve Fulkerson — “I just happened to marry someone with the same name,” she said — and her father cook at the restaurant. They’re in the kitchen by 6 a.m., preparing pot roast and mashed potatoes, fried green tomatoes and burgers.
Most of the recipes they use are from Nanny Allen.
“We served whatever she told us to. If she gave us a recipe, we used it,” Lori Fulkerson said.
Back Home specialties are chicken salad and open-faced roast beef sandwiches. The chicken salad is so popular that it’s sold by the pound, and it’s still made the way Nanny made it.
“Nothing has changed,” Lori Fulkerson said.
The Back Home restaurant and catering company is all about family.
Steve and Lori’s daughter, Hali, and son Cory both work at the restaurant, and their other two children, Cole, 12, and Collin, 10, will work there as soon as they turn 14. A granddaughter, Taytum Cox, was born May 20.
Lori Fulkerson said she can juggle family and restaurant life because she has such a good staff, and she gives credit to server Janet Thomas, who has worked for the Fulkersons for 17 years, for helping run the front of the restaurant. And with the men in the kitchen, her job is to spend one-on-one time with customers, making them feel like they’re “back home.”