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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 annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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Larry Proffitt

In 1948 Jim Proffitt and some partners opened a little country roadhouse in Bluff City, Tennessee, where they sold steaks, chops, and beer. They called their place the Ridgewood Inn. But in 1952 Sullivan County went dry, and Jim’s partners wanted out. Jim took the place over and reevaluated his business plan. Remembering a restaurant he saw on a family vacation to Daytona Beach, Florida, he decided he would have a go at barbecue. He built his first pit out of cinder blocks, got his hands on some fresh hams and rechristened his restaurant Ridgewood Barbecue. From there, the evolution of Ridgewood Barbecue was a family affair. Jim’s wife, Grace Proffitt, not only operated the business while Jim worked his other job at a rayon plant in nearby Elizabethton, she developed some recipes, as well. Their sons, Terry and Larry, worked at Ridgewood while they were growing up. But part of the inspiration behind Ridgewood was for Jim and Grace Proffitt to be able to provide good educations for their sons. Terry got a business degree and Larry went to pharmacy school. But when Jim died in 1980, Terry filled his father’s shoes at the restaurant. And when both Terry and Grace passed, Larry spilt his time between filling prescriptions at Burgie Drugs and smoking hams at Ridgewood. Today, Larry’s daughter Lisa holds the reins of this family institution.

Date of interview:
2009-02-03 00:00

Amy C. Evans

Amy C. Evans

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