Wants business to continue legacy

By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published Jan. 7, 2015

Front Porch restaurant has earned the reputation as a go-to spot for business folks and visitors since opening in 2000, and owner Carol Heflin hopes that continues after she leaves.

Heflin opened the restaurant in November 2000, after quitting a job of 28 years to pursue her “passion.”

“It was the new millennium,” Heflin recalled. “I was in a rut with my life and I really wanted to follow my passion of having a restaurant and a catering business; and it just seemed to be that I had come to the point that it was now or never.”

Fourteen years later, Heflin has decided to retire, planning to dedicate more time to herself and her family.

“Due to some health problems, I developed rheumatoid arthritis after I opened the restaurant, so that’s been a challenge and continues to be along with some other health problems now,” Heflin noted.

“And I’m excited about the birth of my first grandchild,” she added, “and it’s just time for me to slow down a little bit and take care of me and give someone else the opportunity to maybe fulfill their dream the way I was able to 14 years ago.”

Heflin presently is looking for a buyer to continue her restaurant, located on Center Avenue in downtown Dickson, but wants to find someone dedicated to maintaining the business.

“It’s almost like having a child, you know when you begin a restaurant,” Heflin said. “I bought the house as a house and turned it into the restaurant, and just created the concept and made it a restaurant from scratch.

“So I’m just protective of it as you would be with a child,” she continued, “and I don’t want to turn it over to the wrong person and see what we’ve been able to build over the years be destroyed or marred in any way and it’s important to me to find the right person.”

Heflin has turned down buyers she knew “just weren’t right” for the restaurant, she reported.

The customer base is established, she noted, and the restaurant and catering business are doing well.

“The restaurant has a great reputation and good customers and a wonderful staff, so it’s just ready for someone else to walk in and take over,” Heflin said.

“I think every restaurant in particular, and probably every business, needs that visionary person that wants to take the business in a certain direction and set the standards and the goals for the restaurant and we just need that person to come in and take the reins,” she added.

Mitzi Matlock, who is serving as the restaurant’s listing agent, told The Herald in email the business grosses $500,000 in average revenues each year.

“Dickson needs good restaurants to maintain a high level of ‘livability,'” Matlock wrote in the email. “The Front Porch is a unique and important Downtown business.”

John Luther, who owned the former East Hills Restaurant, described Heflin as a friend, but testified to the difficulty in selling restaurants, specifically the assets, like the cooler and kitchen equipment that often come with the package.

“I think it’s a favorable business, and would be profitable for someone,” Luther said. “She has a good clientele.

“I see people in there from surrounding counties, so that’s a good sign,” he added. “People want to drive here and do business with (Heflin) and have lunch, and to drive that amount of distance speaks well for the business and her.”

Heflin explained “part” of the sell is the restaurant’s “potential,” including expanded hours and growing interest in local dinner spots.

“I’m just one person and getting older and so I’ve just not been… able I guess I should say to expand it like it should be, but we really need to expand our hours,” she noted, “so there’s more potential there than what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Heflin targets “working people” and professionals with her restaurant, and “fashioned” her menu accordingly – offering items to folks taking an hour or less for lunch.

“I didn’t want to do just the tea room concept,” she said. “I went to great lengths with the décor and menu to include, to make sure that men knew that they were welcome and had a place here, that it wasn’t just a ladies’ lunch place.”

Heflin described the fried cornbread and glazed rolls as the “stars” of the menu; the chicken salad as “famous,” and the daily Blue Plate specials as the “biggest sellers.”

“And our hot chicken casserole,” she added, “because where else can you go and get a hot chicken casserole with vegetables every day?”

Local diner Warren Fielder is a front porch regular and noshed on Monday’s Blue Plate special – roasted pork with apple cider glaze, roasted potatoes, carrots and onions, purple hull peas, fried apples and slaw.

“I come here because of the good food and the good service, and it’s quiet,” Fielder said. “I’d love to see (the restaurant) continue.”

Jane Wallace, Linda Reynolds and Donna Kimmons, friends and also retired educators, also dined at the Front Porch Monday.

“It’s always good and you can always depend on it being good,” Reynolds said.

Heflin expressed gratitude for her many regular customers and community support over the years.

“We’re just so grateful to have been able to realize my passion in a community like this,” Heflin said, “and I think that the right person will find the same support that this community has given me.

“It’s better than I could even have imagined,” she added, “and I just hope someone else will be able to fulfill their dream and passion with what we’ve built here.”

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