Perspectives: Bonding Over Barbecue

Alyssa Keown

Dairyette sits on Friendship Road in Paducah, Kentucky, a fitting address for its homey feel. Friends and families pass through the restaurant every day, sharing stories and laughs over barbecue sandwiches and ice cream. Owner Roy Bohannon Jr. decorates the walls with photos of people from the town.

“I don’t want you to come one time,” Bohannon said about about his customers. “Come back.”

Bohannon worked for a chemical company for 19 years until 2009, when the economy plummeted. With plans to retire from the company and eventually open his own barbecue restaurant, he suddenly found himself out of a job. So he and his wife, Becky, bought Dairyette, which has served Paducah for more than 60 years.

“I’m still humbled and nervous,” he said about business ownership.

Bohannon said the hardest part of running Dairyette is hiring the right people because he believes employees help to keep the tradition of Dairyette alive. He said he is blessed to have the staff he does. Some of the kids have been working there since high school and continue to work through college.

“As an owner, you can’t do this by yourself — (you must) surround yourself with the right people,” Bohannon said. “Without them, I couldn’t do it.”

Bohannon said Dairyette carries a lot of history, and new memories are made every day. When he framed the first dollar he made and put it on the wall, a delivery man taped a second dollar up as a joke. Now, customers sign their names on dollar bills and hang them up to leave their mark on Dairyette.

“A lot of people think of this as their second home,” said Eric Gross, a regular customer.

“Knowing what I know now, I wish I did this 20 years ago,” Bohannon said. “God closed one door (and) I lost my job, but he opened another one and I am so blessed. It’s been the best eight years of my life.”

Alyssa is a photographer for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected].