A Servant’s Heart: An Interview with Andy Marshall of A. Marshall Family Foods, Inc.

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If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, you are probably familiar with one of the A. Marshall Family Foods, Inc. restaurants, including Homestead Manor, Puckett’s Boat House, Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant and Scout’s Pub. These eateries are applauded for their exceptional food, time and time again across the south and nationally, with mentions in The Food Network, Southern Living, The Washington Post and Travel + Leisure, to name a few. What will stand out to you the most at these restaurants is not only the enjoyable atmosphere and food, but the hospitality and compassion you receive from those that work there, that entrepreneur owner Andy Marshall embodies and shares with his customers, team and with everyone he meets through the A. Marshall Family Foods Inc. family.

The Beginning

At thirteen, Andy Marshall moved to Franklin with his family, as his father was sent from Memphis to open new grocery stores in the area. At age fourteen, Marshall was working alongside his father at these stores, racking bottles in the back and eventually being promoted to produce.“It just kind of set a course of wanting to mimic him and make him proud, as many young people do,” says Marshall. “It was very important for me to try to do that.”

A couple days before Marshall was set to leave for college, his father told him he had planned on buying his own grocery store. Naturally, Andy wanted to be part of the process and help his father open the store, but his father encouraged him to go to college. He registered at Middle Tennessee State University and would head back home and help his father at the grocery store.

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 3.09.09 PMFollowing graduation and after working with his father for several years, Marshall changed jobs and worked with the Lever Brothers as a traveling soap salesman. Still connected to the grocery business, he would travel and visit independent grocery stores thinking, if they were run a different way they could be more profitable and successful. “I kept driving myself crazy thinking about other people’s businesses and if they just did something differently they could be more successful,” exclaims Marshall. “I was telling my dad that over dinner one night and he said to me, ‘You sound like an entrepreneur and you sound like a young man that probably ought to own his own business.’”

And so, at age twenty-six, Marshall did just that. He opened his very own grocery store in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He fixed up the shop and ran it well, but always had a dream of heading back home to Middle Tennessee. He eventually did just that and continued his success.

At the pinnacle of his career, as President of the Piggly Wiggly Association and the President of the Tennessee Grocer’s Association, he knew he had a decision to make about leaving the grocery business and moving on to the restaurant business. He took some time off and during that time he heard about Leiper’s Fork and that the “community was fixing to explode.”

Marshall quickly fell in love with the Leiper’s Fork community and bought the small grocery store there. “I brought my wife there and we sat at Country Boy Restaurant across the street and watched people come in and out the doors of the well-loved eatery. We sat there for a couple hours and only saw four or five people go in and out of the grocery and I thought, what am I doing?”

Even so, Marshall had a feeling this was the place he needed to be to begin his restaurant business. What set everything in motion was purchasing “Sweet Smokin’ Sadie” for the restaurant to add some diverse food options to the menu out there. Soon after, live music was added and the momentum started building.

His determination to grow his restaurant business and remain successful is evident through his work. “Everything I made from the grocery business had gone into making this little grocery store stay alive,” says Marshall. “I had a feeling there was something there if I just kept at it. I did everything, I sold Christmas trees at Christmas and sold plants in the spring. I just did whatever it took to make that little business work,” Marshall says with a chuckle.

An opportunity presented itself in downtown Franklin for space to open another restaurant and Marshall jumped at the chance. It still felt right to Marshall. Thus Puckett’s Franklin (Puckett’s was the name of the grocery, now also restaurant in Leiper’s Fork) was born. Although he quickly realized, running between Leiper’s Fork and Franklin was a difficult balancing act, as he tried to give adequate attention to both restaurants. He knew both locations needed someone there at all times.

It was difficult for Marshall to say goodbye to Leiper’s Fork, but it would make a big difference if he sold it to someone who could be there every day to keep things moving and keep the model and mission of Puckett’s. He knew great things would be on the horizon.

The Growth

After the sale of the original Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork, Marshall transitioned his focus to Franklin, then as time went on and success of the brand grew, he opened in Nashville and downtown Columbia. Marshall spent time to explore in some markets that may have been difficult to imagine if he had not sold Leiper’s Fork. When Marshall initially set his sights on Nashville, he looked on Broadway and the Church Street areas to open the next Puckett’s. “People kept pulling us toward Broadway,” explains Marshall. “I told my wife Jan, there are some decisions you make, you make them because you feel right about them, not because everyone feels right about them. And yes, we could go down to Broadway and make a lot of money, but would we still be Puckett’s? Could we still be that place where locals come and where visitors come because the locals go there, or would be washing out the locals totally?”

Marshall decided to take a chance on 5th and Church and expand the Puckett’s community and do the things they do best. “We discovered there were 5,000 people in a half mile walking distance,” says Marshall. “That’s community, you can’t do that on Broadway.”

Marshall always wanted to bring that community feel to downtown Columbia. “Going to Nashville first allowed us to be patient with the Columbia community,” says Marshall. “The way people feel about their downtown [in Columbia]has changed and we like to think we were part of the energy that made entrepreneurs come in. Next thing you know, there were young entrepreneurs coming in and they could afford to get started and expand on their ideas. “There something really cool happening down there.”

The Future

With Puckett’s Grocery in Franklin, Columbia and Nashville, they have now opened a Chattanooga location and most recently, Puckett’s in Murfreesboro, expanding the love for the restaurant to various locations around the state.

A new member of the A. Marshall Family Foods Inc. that will be added to the family this summer  is Deacon’s New South. This lively, upscale, yet approachable restaurant, will be housed in the L&C Tower in downtown Nashville.

“It is going to be a culmination of everything we have learned from this point and the new talent that we have attracted too,” says Marshall.

This restaurant will serve the same mission as Homestead Manor – their local restaurant and event venue located in Thompson’s Station; with their incorporation of locally-grown produce and food as mainstays. The relationships they have made through these initial restaurants has yielded great opportunities locally that they will continue to keep alive through future restaurants. Cultivating these relationships has been important for Marshall, who enjoys building connections with customers and those he works with.

The Key to Success

The key to success and what motivates individuals is always varying and different among people. Marshall says it is his intrinsic nature to want to please others and making them happy is his definition of success. When he left the grocery business, he focused on his next venture and how to take his motivation to help others come alive. “I found out I am a people pleaser at heart, and in the grocery business that’s a hard thing to do,” says Marshall. The competition in the grocery business and not being happy trying to compete with other businesses was not the fit for Marshall. “I wanted it to be about service and be about pleasing people, these were the things that motivated me.”

When Marshall transferred to the restaurant business, he found out very quickly it is about people pleasing which made him genuinely happy. “For me, it has been identifying what motivates me at heart,” explains Marshall. “Seeing people happy and laughing and having a good time just motivates me.”

In the hiring process and adding to the restaurant family, there is one key thing they look for in their team. “You can’t teach people to love on others, you can teach skills and techniques and things to do, but you can’t teach them how to generally love on people. I think the real key to our business is that we have made an emotional connection with our customers.”

What’s the number one thing the team looks for? A servant’s heart, just like Andy Marshall’s.

To learn more about Andy Marshall’s story and A. Marshall Family Foods, Inc., see our full interview video at yourwilliamson.com.

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