Coming Full Circle: A. Marshall Family Foods Returns to its Roots

Long before Andy Marshall discovered the space on the Murfreesboro public square that would eventually become home to his fifth Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant location, he frequented the area’s downtown businesses as a student at Middle Tennessee State University. Looking back, the campus and its surrounding community have proven to be a special place for the Marshall family, both personally and professionally.

MTSU wasn’t always in the cards for Andy Marshall, though. After moving from Memphis to Franklin at age 13 to live with his father, he set his sights on the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and planned to enroll in the fall semester after graduating from Franklin High School. Just a week prior to the date classes were scheduled to begin, his father resigned from his position with a corporate grocery business to purchase his own store.

“My dad came home one day and said he had left his job to buy his own grocery store. Though he didn’t need me to, I had a sense of duty to stay in town and help him with that,” Andy said.

For about six months, Andy assisted his father with the new business until the elder Marshall insisted that his son reconsider college before the window of opportunity passed. Still intent on staying close to home and to his father, Andy registered at MTSU, returning to Franklin on afternoons and weekends to help out in the store as much as he could.

It wasn’t long before it became clear that Andy was meant to be at MTSU for a reason other than being near his father’s business. He had caught the eye of Jan Crouch, a “Little Sister” of Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity, of which Andy and Jan’s brothers were members.

“I knew who he was long before he knew me,” Jan said with a laugh.

Andy argues it took some “serious flirting” on his part, but eventually the two began dating, Jan often riding along as Deacon -- a nickname given to Andy by his fraternity brothers for his reputation as a teetotaler -- served as the designated driver.

Though Jan was a native Nashvillian, her grandmother, Orlando Hall, was from Lascassas, a community in Rutherford County about ten miles east of Murfreesboro. Her great-grandfather, Charles Hall, was a fiddle player, and his instrument is proudly displayed inside Puckett’s in Murfreesboro alongside memorabilia which pays tribute to local banjo legend Uncle Dave Macon.  Jan’s cousin, Robbie Brittain, recently gave the fiddle to her, knowing the Marshalls display items of local and family significance inside their restaurants.

Andy and Jan were married in 1984, as Andy set out to follow in his father’s footsteps in the grocery business. At age 26, he purchased his first grocery store -- a Piggly Wiggly in Hopkinsville, Ky. -- and went on to own several stores across Middle Tennessee.

Then in 1998, Andy decided to sell his grocery stores and purchase a hidden gem in the little village of Leiper’s Fork called Puckett’s Grocery. At the time, his and Jan’s eldest daughter, Claire, was 11. Throughout her middle school and high school years, Claire helped run tables at Puckett’s.

In 2004, she made the same decision her father had two decades before, electing to stay in state for college and attend MTSU.

Claire graduated in 2008 with a degree in French Language and Literature with intentions to continue her education towards a doctorate in languages.  Upon graduating, however, she began working for the family business again as a manager at Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork where she grew up, while deciding what her next step would be. It wasn’t long before she realized that hospitality was in her blood and that she wanted to be an active contributor to the success of her family business.

She kept up with friends she had made at MTSU and soon found a relationship blooming with someone she had considered “just a friend” in college: Tyler Crowell.

The two were married in 2010 with a reception -- where else? -- at Puckett’s Gro. in downtown Franklin. Music was provided by the Jake Leg Stompers, a band that Claire had come to love during her time at MTSU, and that would also go on to play at the grand opening of Puckett’s in Murfreesboro seven years later.

When the Marshalls expanded the Puckett’s brand to downtown Nashville in 2010, Claire was at the helm as general manager of the restaurant, which exceeded three-year growth projections in its first year in business. The hard-earned and well-deserved title of chief operating officer of the company was given to Claire in 2015.

From 2012 until 2016, the Marshalls went on to open seven more concepts, including Puckett’s Boat House in downtown Franklin; Puckett’s Trolley -- the brand’s mobile venue; Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurants in downtown Columbia and downtown Chattanooga; Homestead Manor in Thompson’s Station; Scout’s Pub in the Franklin community of Westhaven; and Hattie Jane’s Creamery, an artisan ice cream shop located next door to the Puckett’s in Columbia and named for Andy’s granddaughter and Claire’s daughter, Hattie Jane. The Murfreesboro location will open next month, just in time for ice cream season.

According to Andy, Murfreesboro had long been on the company’s list of “dream locations” for their next venture, due to the interest of several employees who are from the area wanting an A. Marshall Family Foods restaurant within closer proximity to home. After scouting several locations, Marshall learned of an opportunity on the Murfreesboro public square in April 2016 -- a space that would keep with the company’s tradition of planting restaurants in historic downtown communities.

Puckett’s Murfreesboro -- located at 114 N. Church Street -- is managed by Autumn Friese, former manager of Puckett’s in downtown Nashville, and Cliff Marshall, Andy and Jan’s youngest child and only son.

After much community anticipation, the restaurant held its Grand Opening on February 13. In the Marshall family way, the event included a heartfelt speech by Andy, thanking each member of his family, who, along with Jan, Claire and Cliff, includes middle daughter Emily, who recently returned to the family business as her father’s executive assistant.

The family describes the opening of the Murfreesboro store as a “full circle” moment for them.

“To have met Andy in Murfreesboro, to have sent our oldest child to school here, and now to open our tenth and eleventh businesses here... it’s really come full
circle for us,” Jan said.

Andy agrees. “To say we have been overwhelmed with the support of
Murfreesboro and its surrounding communities is an understatement. One of the best parts about the restaurant business is the opportunities it affords us to
connect and establish relationships with people, and we look forward to
continuing what we’ve started and really growing with the community here.”

The second Hattie Jane’s Creamery in Murfreesboro, adjacent to Puckett’s, will include a full coffee bar and a rotating selection of unique, inspired flavors using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. It’s another full circle moment for the family, as Claire worked at a small coffee shop, now closed, on the square in Murfreesboro while in college.

Not ones to stay idle, the family’s roots in Murfreesboro will play an important role in another venture soon. An upscale steakhouse concept -- called “Deacon’s New South” as a nod to Andy’s college nickname -- will open in the historic Life & Casualty Tower in downtown Nashville this summer.

Despite where opportunities take the company next, it’s assured that the people and culture of Rutherford County have played a vital role in planting the seeds of inspiration and community for A. Marshall Family Foods that will continue for years to come.