Wartburg, Tenn. (April 26, 2022) – 10 am on April 22, 2022, marked the beginning of a new era for Tanners Historic Cafe with a welcoming speech and placement of a Welcome to Morgan County Door Mat that greeted dozens of first-time visitors, and hundreds of those that had grown up visiting this historic community icon over its 99 years of existence.
As each person entered, they signed a guest book to commemorate this historic event. The first signer was appropriately, Charles Tanner, the former owner and grandson of the original 1920’s owners of Tanners Cafe and Drug Store, John Everett and Maud Tanner.
The Morgan County Tourism Alliance purchased the building two and a half years ago with the intention of reopening the cafe and to also offer additional services, such as tourism information, souvenirs and a place for hikers passing by on the nearby Cumberland Trail to get trail information, supplies, internet access, and perhaps take a hot shower in the rebuilt facility that replaced the original shower put in to allow local miners to pay a nickel to utilize the town’s original and only shower with hot running water.
One of the most important goals of the reopened Tanners Historic Cafe is to provide a glimpse into the past and simpler times when places like Tanners Historic Cafe served as community gathering places, where friends and family came together to share news, stories, gossip and memories in the years before television and the internet became pervasive.
As the crowds swarmed into the cafe during the Grand Opening, this goal was clearly met as friends and families were seen hugging and sharing stories of their first time in the cafe and the cycle repeated itself as modern-day parents and grandparents brought their own children and grandchildren in for ice cream or milkshakes.
Morgan County Tourism Alliance Mark Keck commented, “People came in with their memories and they shared those memories and they were looking forward to making new memories with their kids and grandkids just like their parents and grandparents made with them.”
The cafe’s menu, which consisted of Chicken salad sandwiches, pimento cheese sandwiches, grilled cheese paninis, grilled ham and cheese paninis, soups, hot dogs, brats, ice cream sundaes and cones, sodas and coffee was prepared and served by Morgan County High School Career and Technical Center Culinary Arts teacher Sarah Shanks and six of her culinary arts students. While the Culinary Arts students waited and bussed tables and served ice cream, MCTA volunteers circulated amongst the visitors to greet them and solicit their stories of past visits to Tanners.
Two of the most vested volunteers, Restoration Project Co-managers Marta Monroe and Pam Gunter oversaw the entire restoration process and planned the Grand Opening, working as a team to accomplish the herculean task of restoring a nearly 100-year-old building that had fallen into disrepair.
“It was a great day,” Marta Monroe said, “We had a lot of folks that came out and it was so great to see people visiting with each other and ordering food and just hanging out. Everyone seemed to have a really great time today.”
Pam Gunter agreed, “I think everyone really appreciated the work that went into this place. They talked about how it had that good cafe vibe, but it was also clean and new and they liked it and that made us feel good. We feel that all the work we did was appreciated by the people that have been coming in and out of here for years.”
Now that the cafe has reopened, the Tourism Alliance is planning on initially opening four days per week with limited hours. The planned schedule will be Thursday - Saturday from 10am - 4pm and Sunday from noon - 4 pm. The Alliance hopes that hours and days can be extended based on community interest and sales and volunteer staffing.
Chairman Keck summarized, “We do this, not for us, but for our future generations - the little ones. That’s what it’s all about. There’s a lot more to see and hear from Tanners Historic Cafe.” For more information about Tanners Historic Cafe, visit mctamoco.com.