Food, Family, and a Future
by Carrie Beth Catron
As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In the case of Shawn Hackinson, this is a good thing. A really good thing for those foodies in town, for sure. In his small hometown of Donora, Pennsylvania, Shawn, his two sisters and brother grew up in a home. . .in an alley. Their family lived a meager life, not needing for anything, but not without want. Keeping the family finances in mind, mom Joanne, who is the queen of hospitality, couldn’t afford gifts for special occasions for people, so her gift was always food. Shawn always enjoyed being with his mom as she served through food. He found a true passion for feeding the soul with food at a young age, through her gifts, both in cooking and serving.
Shawn entered college at Duquesne with great plans to become an attorney with his pre-law major.. However, college provided the opportunity to have a lot of fun, and he determined he liked that more than studying, in addition to the fact that it was a great cost for something his heart wasn’t in. Shawn left college and moved to Houston to be the last of seven cousins that migrated there – all working in stocks and bonds. He wanted to share in their success, so he tried financial services. Once again, he discovered what wasn’t for him: cubicle wasn’t his cup of tea. From there, he worked to earn a living - at a bank in a call center for Bank One (7am-4pm), closed a gym daily(5pm -10pm), and waited tables at the southwestern restaurant Canyon Café on the weekends, all still in Houston.
As he was sincerely living a life with no true attachment, upon a phone call from his brother at Fort Campbell who had learned he would be going to South Korea for a year, Shawn agreed to move there and manage his brother’s mortgage company while he was gone. Having grown accustomed to working in the restaurant in Houston, he decided to also wait tables at Red Lobster there. During his time in Clarksville, he met Christy (now wife and co-owner of The Alley on Main), and after dating for six months, decided to save money for six months so he could move to Murfreesboro to be with her. Upon moving here, he transferred to the local Red Lobster and lived with her parents.
As Christy finished school at MTSU in TV production, they decided to moveback to Houston, where Shawn again transferred to Red Lobster, became a manager, and realized his passion for the restaurant systems – guest services, production, labor, etc. Red Lobster Headquarters discovered his value through his perfection in his management and promoted him to General Manager, moved them to Arkansas, where he worked for six years. Shawn continued to succeed in restaurant and food management with other companies, but he always wanted more. He had a sincere need to be that person his mom had always been to so many through her food.
His dream became realized as he and Christy found themselves with three children and a good amount of equity in their home at the time in San Antonio. Their ticket to making the dream a reality was in the hands of Christy’s parents, Dena and Mike Humnicky. They welcomed the Hackinson family of five into their home in Murfreesboro so that Shawn and Christy could pour their available funds into feeding the hearts and souls of the citizens here.
Upon moving Christy and the boys home to Murfreesboro, they started scoping out a site to do so. Lots of ideas and many locations later, Shawn knew he needed to do something in the interim to keep the family going until the perfect location was found. In August of 2014, he decided to go into Rooster’s to ask the owner for a job on what happened to be the day that the staff was packing that restaurant to close. Shawn immediately called the landlord to secure what would be the Hackinson family home away from home for the next few months as they worked non-stop to design and renovate the space into their vision.
Little did they know at the time, but Shawn and Christy have mimicked the philosophy of Shawn’s mom within the walls (and patio) of The Alley on Main. They started their success in October of 2014 as they had a now close friend, Mike Panesi, recruit people to try out the new venture with a free meal, while also giving the staff an opportunity to train during the first four weeks. Just like his mom, the relationships that they have built and embraced in Murfreesboro have all been fostered through Shawn’s love to minister with food. After having lived in many places, Shawn states that he knows Murfreesboro is where he and his family were meant to land. He firmly believes that the success of his dream is due to the people here. “Everyone supports everyone. People advocate for you. . . it’s hard to understand the type of relationships here until you experience it.”
As you visit Shawn and Christy to indulge in their tasty treasures, think of your “alley” where you grew up, and know that they only want that degree of family comfort for you when you visit The Alley on Main. They’ve found a home here, and they want you to feel at home with them.
To further institute his mom’s example of service, Shawn and Christy foster love with food every month as they sponsor a local charity with a wine tasting at the restaurant. He knows that his success is due to so many helping him throughout his journey, and he wants to continue that cycle of giving.