Thursday, December 29, 2005  Dothan Eagle
Business
Dianne and Zack Whaley of Zack's Family Restaurant as they expand their Slocomb restaurant business with a new Dothan, Alabama location.

Jay Hare / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Zack Whaley and his wife, Dianne, talk about expanding their business, Zack’s Restaurant, into Dothan

If you go ...
Zack's Family Restaurant
1495 Headland Ave.
For more information:
673-ZACK (9225)

dothaneaglecom-logoDebbie Ingram
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Several days a week, locals drive the 20 or 30 miles one way - depending on where they are coming from — just to eat at a country-style restaurant called Zack in the small Geneva County town of Slocomb. They come because it is food worth driving for.

As of next Monday, the drive for many gets shorter. Zack’s Family Restaurant owner Zack Whaley is opening a second location in north

Dothan at 1495 Headland Ave., just inside Ross Clark Circle behind Cowboy’s gas station.

“Some people drive a hundred miles to eat with us on Sunday” Whaley said.

It is this loyal clientele that convinced the Rebobeth resident that it was time to expand to the largest city in the Wiregrass.

“Within one mile there are more people work jug here than live in all of Slocomb,” he said. “What makes us different (than the approximately 120 eating establishments operating in Dothan), is the quality of the food, the quality of the service and the appreciation of everybody’s business. That’s our key”

The restaurant, which seats 180, will be open from 10 am. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are plans to add Sunday lunch.

“This is just a family restaurant,” said Whaley’s wife, Dianne who will be among the 18 employees working in Dothan. ‘When people come here, we want them to feel like they are at mom’ house.”

While patrons may order from the menu, most will utilize the cafeteria-style food line, selecting from a choice of about five or six entrees each day and up to a dozen or more vegetables.

The restaurant will post a schedule so diners can always find their favorites on the line. Zack’s most famous fare — fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and banana pudding — will be daily menu items.

While the restaurant is not all-you-can-eat like the original Zacks, which will remain open in Slocomb, diners can select three vegetables and a meat, plus bread, dessert and drink for $6.95.

“We will also have pass-arounds,” Whaley said. ‘A couple of extra vegetables each day. Say if we don’t have fried okra on the menu that day, we will have some just to pass around. We plan to do two to three pass-arounds a day.”

The amount and variety of food is why there are no plates at Zack’s --just platters. While the servings are abundant, Whaley said she still believes “variety is key over quantity.”

Whaley has been in and out of the restaurant business his entire life, getting his start as an 11-year-old bus boy at Dobbs Barbecue. He worked at two local factories before one closed forcing him to find work quickly. He became the manager of Shoney’s restaurant in Dothan. He then operated a janitorial business before finding his way back into food service 12 years ago. He has owned Zack’s for nine years and contends his customers have made him a success.

“This is my little niche in life,” Whaley said. “The Lord has blessed us. It’s amazing how generous people are. Nobody gave me anything but they gave me an opportunity.”

Whaley, 51, was the fifth of six children and the first to graduate high school. He moved to Dothan in a pickup truck with four of his siblings and his parents from the tobacco fields of North Carolina in 1964.

“When we got here, my cousin dropped us off just south of here and turned around and drove back to North Carolina,” Whaley said. ‘All my family had was in that truck and with five kids, that wasn’t much. An older brother had joined the military My dad was disabled but never drew any money from the government. My mom took a job at Bishop’s Cleaners making $21 a week."

Older brothers and sisters never completed school, he said, because after they reached a certain age they had to drop out and get jobs to help support the family. These humble beginnings, Dianne says, motivated her husband.

“That’s where he got his drive from,” she said. Aside from the daily lunches, menu items will include salads, sandwiches, chicken fingers, fried onion rings and dill pickles and other items. They also do extensive catering and have catered meals for governors, lieutenant governors and even presidents and vice presidents.

If you go ...
Zack's Family Restaurant
1495 Headland Ave.
For more information:
673-ZACK (9225)