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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.

ORAL HISTORY

Jakie Cook


Wendell Smith Restaurant

Born in 1933, Jakie Cook was the son-in-law of Wendell Smith, Sylvan Park entrepreneur and founder of the eponymous Wendell Smith Restaurant and adjacent businesses. Jakie came on as a clerk in the liquor store in 1958, a few years after marrying Wendell’s daughter, Beverly. Soon after that he took over management of the restaurant and eventually expanded the empire-on-the-corner to include not only the original restaurant, liquor store, and market, but a drugstore and barbecue stand, as well.

When Wendell started the restaurant, Sylvan Park was still a pastoral, rural community outside of Nashville. Now the restaurant sits about a half block from an interstate in a bustling commercial/industrial corridor. As the not-so-long-ago blue-collar neighborhood begins to gentrify, there is a popular neo-retro ice cream and burger place just across the street, Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, with a tiny classic French eatery, Miel, just behind it. Some of Nashville’s coolest eateries are in Sylvan Park, but even with such competition, musicians, ladies-who-lunch, businessmen, politicians, and local workers still flock to Wendell Smith’s, particularly on Wednesday or Saturday when the special is crisp, hot fried chicken.

These days, Jakie’s son, Benji, is the owner/manager of the restaurant while Jakie holds court, coffee cup in hand, at the liquor store.

Date of interview:
2012-05-07 00:00

Interviewer:
Ronni Lundy

Photographer:
Ronni Lundy

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