Southern soul: Fuqua’s brings soulfood restaurant to Hartselle
Photos by Rachel Howard
Dreams and visions are brought to fruition in all sorts of ways, and for Lawrence Fuqua who had closed his restaurant called Grandma’s Kitchen and worked for a variety of food service companies, the dream of going back into business for himself was realized while eating Sunday dinner with his family after church in Rogersville.
“We were in there eating and the guy started locking up. My dad asked if he was closing early and he said, ‘No, I’m done. This is getting too hard to deal with so I’m closing for good,’” Fuqua said.
After some prompting and encouragement from his father, Fuqua decided that maybe this was his opportunity for a second chance. A few days later he was making phone calls and arrangements to take over the lease for the restaurant down the street from his father’s church. This was the birth of Fuqua’s Southern Soul Food, which opened five years ago. Fuqua and his team battled Covid to stay open, offering carry out and curbside service just to stay in business. “I had a lot of people who were committed to being there customer wise. Every Sunday we would take their food out to their car, so once Covid kind of fell off we got back to everything, this last year has really been a blessing and allowed us to grow and be able to expand into Hartselle.”
The initial seed of Fuqua’s opening a location in Hartselle was prompted by another chance encounter when Life Church Pastor Brad Sheats was eating at the Rogersville location and asked if Fuqua had ever considered opening a restaurant in Hartselle. “His son was playing a tournament in Lauderdale County and he was kind of talking about Hartselle,” Fuqua said. “Ever since then he has been trying to find something in Hartselle.”
Two buildings became open around the same time, and Fuqua had a big decision to make. Ultimately, he decided to open his Hartselle location in what had previously been Las Vias on Nance Ford Road. “At first I was a little skeptical because it’s a little bit off the beaten path and I was looking to move downtown, but we ended up over here and it’s been great. We do a lot of catering and weddings and stuff. It’s been great,” he said.
Fuqua credits the support of his family with the success of both locations, with his parents running things at the Rogersville location and his aunt helping run things in Hartselle.
While the options for the type of food Fuqua would serve were limitless, he says that he chose soul food because of the need for real food to be served at restaurants.
“A lot of the old timey Grandma and Grandpa ways of sitting on the porch picking beans and turnip greens doesn’t exist anymore,” Fuqua said. “And now the younger generation doesn’t know how to do that. So I just wanted to be able to provide real food where when people come in and sit down they’re able to say that it reminds them of being at Grandma’s house at Christmas.”
Ultimately Fuqua says his vision is for customers to come into his Fuqua’s Southern Soul Food hungry and leave better, no matter what kind of day they’re having. “If you come there we’re going to do our best to make sure you leave happy. During the summer time we try to use garden vegetables. When you sit down to eat I want you to feel like you’re sitting down at your grandparents house. I just want to kind of take you back in time to enjoy good food,” he said.
“I’m originally from Town Creek but my wife is from Hartselle so we moved here to be closer to her family 25 years ago. I like the town; it’s a nice, quiet, peaceful town. A nice place to bring kids up. And Hartselle has been really receptive to us. I didn’t expect the business flow to be what it is. I knew we would be busier than what I have in Rogersville volume wise, but this has been phenomenal. A lot of people have poured into us coming here and greeting us with open arms. That’s what’s made this restaurant special to me,” he added.