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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Marvin Matherne

Guy's Po-boys

When he was young, Marvin Matherne’s aunt ran a workingman’s po-boy shop called Messina’s in downtown’s Warehouse District (back before most of the warehouses and factories in that neighborhood became condominiums). The experience of eating there made a big impression: “From that moment on I’m like, ‘I’m going to have one of these places and I’m going to have Cokes and sandwiches every day,’” he remembers thinking.

Marvin had several careers—as a hairdresser, a contractor, and a restaurateur—before purchasing Guy’s Po-Boys from Guy Barcia in 1993 and making good on his childhood fantasy. Guy’s today is essentially a one-man show. Marvin prepares every—every—sandwich that passes from his open kitchen to his customers. He has made minimal changes at Guy’s over the ensuing decades, even dressing his po-boys exactly as Guy Barcia did: hot sauce and ketchup on fried seafood; mustard on “blue meats” like smoked sausage, pastrami, and ham.

A neighbor gave the building’s exterior a fresh coat of paint several years ago, and damage from a refrigerator fire gave Marvin occasion to raise the ceiling in the dining room. But the place otherwise displays the bones of the corner grocery store it once was. As he vowed in childhood, Marvin eats a fried shrimp po-boy every day. “I tell people, if you cut me open, my anatomy will be of a shrimp,” he says.

Date of interview:

Sara Roahen

Dorka Hegedus

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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