Friday, November 1, 2013

Bush's Family Cafe and A.J. Bush & Co. General Merchandise-A Delightful Place

We embarked this past Saturday on a much needed, however spontaneous, trip to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We love these mountains and have spent many happy days there, often with family and friends.

My husband and I have visited this heavenly place as often as possible since we were first married. Our wedding anniversary is in October and we often celebrate it in the Smokies when the leaves are at peak, or at least showing off with some bright and vibrant colors. The leaves are a bit late turningg this year, but are still beautiful.

Over the years, we have come across some really good places to eat in locations that are sometimes off the beaten path. We have also discovered a lot of fun and educational places to visit along the way. Oftentimes, we find a spot that offers a unique shopping experience.  It is not often, however, that we stumble upon a place that has it all. Today, I am posting about just such a place. The place is Bush's Family Cafe and A.J. Bush & Co General Merchandise store, Visitor Center and Museum. It is located at 3901 U.S. Highway 411(Chestnut Hill), Danbridge, Tennessee. It is directly across the highway from the Bush's Bean factory, where the beans are still being canned today. Chestnut Hill, TN.(which is very close to the current factory location) is where Bush's Beans began in 1904. If you care to check out their site for the place I am posting about you can to to this site: http://www.bushbeans.com/en_US/about_us/visitor_center/.

Whenever possible, we allow ourselves a couple of hours to stop by, not only to eat, but to do a little shopping in the store and even visit the museum again. When we stopped by on Saturday afternoon, the first thing we did was to go straight to Bush's Best Family Cafe for one of their delicious meals.

Bush's Best Family Cafe
This truly is a family restaurant and has a really nice selection of items to choose from on the menu. The staff members are all so courteous and very down-to-earth and friendly. They make you feel right at home. All of the meals start with a sampling of one of Bush's world famous beans varieties. We had the Grillin' Beans, which were a little spicy but very good.

Bush's Grillin' Beans
Folks, when you plan to eat at this cafe, by all means, go hungry. Believe me when I tell you that servings are quite hefty and totally delicious!

Those of you who are health and diet conscious and order accordingly will probably be cringing when I tell you what we had to eat. My husband ordered the Chicken Tenders. We both had this the last time we stopped by the Cafe and we remembered how good it was. I knew that would be too much food for me this time. He ordered sweet potato fries and coleslaw as his two sides. I forgot to get a picture of the coleslaw, but you can see these are not any ordinary little chicken tenders. These are big, healthy pieces of boneless, tender, melt-in-the mouth delicious, perfectly crispy, fried chicken breasts!

Chicken Tenders and Sweet Potato Fries

I ordered the Chicken Strip Salad with tenderloins of, yes indeedy, fried chicken breasts. I considered taking the grilled option. After all, I figure I made up for having it fried because it was, after all, on top of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots. Well, maybe it doesn't work that way, but it sounds good, in theory anyway. This chicken breast was also fried to just right crispy perfection. A good salad is one of my favorite things. This one was REALLY good!

Chicken Strip Salad with Blue Cheese Salad Dressing


Please humor me people, but I just had to share a picture I took in the restroom. I think this faucet(or maybe it should be called a pump) is the cutest thing. It is just what you would expect to find in this wonderful country establishment.


After our delicious dinner, we walked around the corner to A.J. Bush's General Merchandise store and Museum. We stopped along the way to take a picture or two.




Bush Brothers Bean Factory Across the Highway from the Visitor's Center
Glenn Is Trying To Talk Duke Into Giving Him The Secret Family Recipe
A.J. Bush & Co. General Merchandise Store
My friends, if you like antiques and/or antique reproductions and other unique items and gifts, you will really enjoy this store. Not only does it offer all sorts of novelty items for home and hearth, but the items are all displayed on either antique or vintage kitchen cabinets, stoves, or rustic shelving. You can also purchase from an array of their "beautiful" canned beans. I got a little carried away taking pictures, but these should give you a really good idea what I am talking about when I say it is pure nostalgic delight.
Farm Style Kitchen Linens and Accessories
I would love to have this red and white baking cabinet these farm themed items are displayed upon. I remember seeing these in some of the homes of older ladies when I was a little girl. Note the sifter that is attached to the cabinet. That enameled metal cabinet top was great for rolling out those biscuits or kneading bread. 
What Wonderful Aprons!
More Country Style Items
I purchased a couple of dishtowels from the above collection. The ones with red stripes up each side are something I have been looking for to use in a project I am going to do. Isn't this old sink wonderful? My grandfather was widowed before I was born so he did his own housekeeping and cooking. He lived near us and I loved walking up to visit him and spent many a day with him and he had a sink very much like the one in this picture. My father owned his little house after my grandfather died. My brother-in-law and sister purchased the house from my father and that wonderful sink is still in the kitchen. It made me feel happy to see they had kept the sink.
This Cherry Themed Kitchen Collection Would Look Perfect In A Kitschy Kitchen

Some more great things, including some gourds, lamps, stoneware pitchers and so on.



Another great prop for some pots, crocks, cutting boards, cook books and wooden spoons. What a fabulous old stove!



They have a great collection of doggy items, including needlepoint and other pillows, socks, etc.

More beautiful dog items, for the canine lovers among us and for those who love cats, as well!

Here are just a few of the canned beans for sale in the store.


There is another large section of the store which contains more modern looking merchandise. I guess you might call it more "touristy." It has things like tee-shirts(I have one), key chains, etc., with the Bush's Best Beans logo. I didn't take any pictures of any of that because it is the kind of thing you would normally expect to be there.

Now, for a tour through the museum. The tour carries you through the many decades of change as the company grew and progressed to keep up with  production and the changing times. The tour is FREE to the public and is quite interesting, entertaining and informative.

One of the first things you will see is the big bean can. This is open on each end and a person can walk through it.

The Big Beautiful Bean Can
You can stop here and find out how much you weigh in beans.


Here you can find examples of the types of beans that are grown in different parts of the world. The sign and the map in the background are made of beans!



Duke's dog house. Note the beanstalk in the background.


It all started with this couple, A.J. and Sallie Bush.


A.J. and Sallie Bush and four of their six children are pictured here. There are some inserts at the bottom of the second picture, taken outside their home.










The Original Store Building of A.J. Bush & Company General Merchandise
The store building had a distinctive red exterior and would have looked something like this:


In early times when items were purchased, they would have been wrapped in paper and tied with cotton string. Using this cotton string, Sallie created a lovely little coverlet. The actual blanket is exhibited in the museum, under glass, and this sign above it explains how she made the little cover, probably for a child, since it was not very large. 


Here is a picture of the actual blanket. It is really intricate and truly lovely.

Coverlet Made With Packaging String By Sallie Bush
More pictures of the growing family:
A few pictures of how things progressed through the ages. There are replicas of the trucks used to deliver the product and some pictures of how the beans were labeled over the years. 

1950's


1960's


1970's and 80's

A uniform worn by factory workers in the 1970's


1990's

The Quotation Above Actually Reads "This Company Shall Continue Forever."
At this point in the tour you are invited to step into a photo booth to have your picture taken with Duke. There are several different backgrounds to choose from. We take the tour and have our pictures made every time we visit. Last year when our family went up together for a vacation, we all crammed into the booth, all eleven of us, and had our picture made.It was a hoot! They will give you as many copies as you request, so we got one for the families of both my daughters and ourselves.

As you leave the museum, you will see a couple of things from some of the old commercials from past years. You will be reminded that Duke, the Bush family dog, was trying to get the Secret Recipe and was told he could have it when "Pigs Fly."  So Duke rigged up his flying pig.

 I snapped this picture of the pig as it was flying around above our heads:

When Pigs Fly

If you are ever in the area, Bush's Beans truly is a terrific place to go and spend some quality time. Kids of all ages love it, including the old(er) kids like us ! We have visited the museum on several occasions and it is, to me, very impressive that something as simple as a lowly can of beans could have grown into such a lucrative and enduring(over 100 years) business. Is it any wonder the people at Bush's Best Beans use the phrase "Roll that beautiful bean footage," in their commercials?!




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