Stan’s Café and Service Station was founded by W.O. “Stan” Stanfill and his wife Myrtle “Mrs. Stan” on Main St. in Spring Hill, TN and began operation on August 8th, 1947. They offered country cooking, a complete soda fountain, curb service and were open 24 hours a day. The business served as the hub of the small community, 540 residents at the time, for decades.
The restaurant and service station served all aspects of the community of Spring Hill and the surrounding area. From the young children hoping to get a pull of soda from the fountain after church on Sunday, to the teenagers looking to socialize after a ball game or especially to prolong a date night with a sweetie on the weekend. The older folks would gather for breakfast and coffee in the mornings and discuss current events and visit with friends and neighbors.
The delicious home-style food and friendly small town service earned it quite the reputation with the travelers of the time, especially truckers who were catered to with hot showers, bunks to sleep in, a pay phone, and even a barbershop all in one location and 24 hours a day. Stan went a step further and converted an old blacksmith shop next door that had shoed mules for decades into a repair garage for the big rigs. The location of the restaurant was truly ideal, and Stan certainly knew this. Formerly the old Campbell Mill, the property was located in the center of town on what is Highway 31, the main North-South highway connecting the ports of the Gulf Coast with the ports of the Great Lakes prior to the construction of the Interstate Highway System.
In the decade after WWII, the nation experienced an unexpected economic boom that made the Great Depression begin to fade into distant history. Military-trained truck drivers returned from the war and were quickly put to work in the rapidly growing long-haul trucking business that was fueled by the budding wealth and growing consumerism sweeping America.
At the same time, middle class American workers were enjoying the benefits of paid vacations and increased car ownership. The pent up demand for leisure travel created the American ritual of families loading up in the car and hitting the highways. The family road trip, for many, was a magical time of discovering the country, strengthening family bonds, and enjoying the freedom of the open road.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the completion of the Interstate Highway System slowed the pulse of main street businesses as traffic was diverted from old familiar routes and onto new modern highways. Stan moved quickly and purchased a piece of property near the newly completed interchange of I-65 and Hwy 99 just south of Spring Hill in Columbia and in 1971 opened Stan’s Restaurant and Country Store.
When the new Stan’s location opened, there were 700 truck stops across the nation adjusting to the changing times. Stan had a vision for his new restaurant that would prove to be innovative and offered a unique experience for the growing number of travelers and truckers on the road. His new concept offered not only the delicious country cooking and hometown friendly service Stan’s had become well known for over the past 24 years, but also a country store, gift shop, and antique museum to entertain motorists.
The new restaurant featured a stunning antique solid oak and stained glass back bar originally from an old saloon in Nashville, a unique Siamese tree arch entrance, and a ham that had hung on the wall since day 1 (it’s still hanging there by the way and has been for more than 60 years). The walls and ceilings were covered in antiques and the front drive featured covered wagons and farming implements for tourists to pose in front of and snap photos with.
Although the bunks and showers had gone away, truckers were well taken care of at the new Stan’s and the business soared. Travelers and truckers alike continued their ritual of stopping at Stan’s, as they had gotten accustomed to in the old days of passing through Spring Hill on Highway 31. Stan pioneered what was the beginning of the new era of travel plazas built for motorists. It was more than a quick meal and a fill-up, it was part of the journey and the experience of traveling.
Stan’s has served generations of families in Maury County, an untold number of truckers, scores of families hitting the open road, and its fair share of famous and not-so-famous aspiring musicians headed to Nashville to make it on the big stage. Stan’s Country Hams, bacon, and sausage have been shipped to every corner of the country. Stan’s tells the story of southern cooking, emphasizing its authenticity with hillbilly speak on it’s menu offering up Po’ke Chops and Aigs and melt in your mouth pit BBQ over Kracklin’ Cornbread. The staff is small town friendly, some of them have been with Stan’s for decades, and they’ll make you feel right home.
The days of truckers using independent truck stops is long gone. Large trucking companies use national accounts for refueling and truckers require fewer accommodations than ever with the conveniences of home in their rigs. The large, well-lit parking lots of national shopping chains along the interstate provide ample safe parking and big box stores that offer everything under the sun are open 24 hours a day and are a short walk across the parking lot from their rig.
So, what’s next? Stan’s has always been right on time. 44 years after our last innovative and bold move, we are reinventing ourselves again. We are proud to announce that a new Stan’s Restaurant and Country Store will be built at our existing location and is slated to be complete in early 2015. While we respectfully nod at our past, the future for Stan’s is very exciting.
The New Stan’s will include added gasoline pumps, a modern convenience store, and a hotel. While we are shifting our business model away from servicing the trucking industry, although it will always hold a dear place in our heart and was the foundation of much of our success, we are focusing on creating the best country cooking dining experience you’ve ever had.
What has made Stan’s so special over the years are the dedicated staff and guests that have graced the business for 67 years. People like Phyllis “Granny” Foster who worked at Stan’s for over 40 years, she would light up the dining room when she walked in, and maybe even pay for your meal if you were short a couple bucks. Granny sadly passed away in 2012, but her memory will live on at Stan’s and in the community. Guests that for generations have made the pilgrimage to Stan’s for Wednesday night Frog Legs or a taste of Mrs. Stan’s famous spaghetti. Truckers who can’t drive from Mobile to Nashville without getting their hands on some real pit BBQ and see their favorite faces. These are the things that make Stan’s so special, the people and our memories.
In an effort to capture the history of Stan’s in the Maury County community, enrich the experience of visitors, and preserve the past, Stan’s has embarked on an extensive history project. We are collecting these memories and making them available to the local community and sharing our unique Middle Tennessee story with travelers from all over the world.
Do you have a favorite memory of Stan’s that you’d like to share, photos that you would like included in telling the story, or have memorabilia that you would like to contribute to our project? Whether you’re a citizen of Maury County, a traveler that loves Stan’s, or a trucker that help build our business, we would love your support.
How you can contribute:
Oral History Project
Oral history is one of the best ways to capture a story or experience in the past and it becomes critical as time goes on to capture these stories before it’s too late. We will be performing oral history interviews during the month of July. There will be an event at the Spring Hill Library as well as at the restaurant. The dates of the events will be posted on our website and Facebook page (be sure to like us if you already haven’t!) Private appointments can be made for interviews as well. The interviews will be video recorded and the content will be transcribed for the permanent record and submitted to the Oral History Project of the Genealogical Society of Maury County as well as the Middle Tennessee Oral History Project at MTSU. Portions of the oral histories will be used in a video about the history of Stan’s and could be used as content for our online presence and in the media. Please contact Danny@stanscountryrestaurant.com for more information.
If you have pictures of Stan’s that you would like to contribute to the project and live in the Maury County area, please take them to White’s Camera Shop at 107 W. 7th street in Downtown Columbia (931)381-1240. The staff there will scan the photos for you, many times while you wait, and will compile them for the project. If you live out of area and would like to email a high quality scanned image, you can email them to email@example.com. Please be sure to include your contact information with either submittal so we can keep in touch. The photos may be used in the decor of the restaurant, in content for our online presence, and in the media, and will be submitted as part of the historical record.
If you have an old menu, matchbook, or advertisement, or other memorabilia that you think should be included in our project, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to contribute.