Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Bell Buckle, Tennessee, draws visitors from across the country and the world with its thriving arts community, charming architecture, festivals, the Webb School, antique shops and Bell Buckle Café.
When you visit Bell Buckle Café, you will find comfort food and southern hospitality, said John Heinike, owner of Bell Buckle Café. The café has welcomed guests for nearly three decades. After visiting the town and finding its culture and people fascinating, John moved to Bell Buckle from Huntsville, Alabama.
During one of his first trips to Bell Buckle, Gregg met artist Anne White-Scruggs, who owned Bell Buckle Crafts. She died in 2020, but her legacy continues to live.
“We have owned the café for 28 years,” Gregg said. “I just came through town to visit historic Bell Buckle, but there wasn’t much going on. At that time, I met Anne White-Scruggs. She was doing pottery next door, and this (the space housing Bell Buckle Café) was a little café that was open a couple days a week. Anne had worked hard to get artists to Bell Buckle. Anne was really outgoing. She was an ambassador. Anne kept talking me into buying the café.”
John thought bringing a wonderful food experience to town would draw visitors to Bell Buckle.
“So, I bought it, and it sat here for a long time without doing any business,” Gregg said. “But slowly it started coming around. A lot of people got involved in promoting it. I had a lot of connections in country music at that time.”
Performers from the Grand Ole Opry and country music artists visited the café and spread the word, said Gregg.
Today, Bell Buckle Café is rated in the top 10 restaurants to visit in Tennessee.
“Now, all my family is involved in the restaurant – three grandchildren, two daughters and my wife,” Gregg said.
In Bell Buckle, Gregg found friends – people who genuinely care for each other and want the town to prosper. When he first moved to Bell Buckle, he felt at home. The environment of openness and common goal of serving the community and providing memorable experiences to visitors still motivates him today.
“I like people, and my family likes people,” Gregg said. “Goodwill is everything. Everyone is very friendly, and we are proud of that. How many places do you go to where you sit down, and everyone asks you where you are from? The whole town is like that. We have built up an international clientele. People feel relaxed here. They sit down, and it’s like going back to another time. Today, we live in a stressful time, aggressive time, and in Bell Buckle, things are like they used to be. We have worked hard to try to keep it like this.”
Gregg's daughter, Heidi Heinike, invites you to enjoy delicious food, friendly service, and cozy atmosphere. Heidi encourages you to explore the town’s shops and chat with residents, who are always ready to share stories.
“Come to Bell Buckle because the food is delicious, the coffee is delicious, and the ice cream is delicious,” Heidi said. “Our smoked pork chops and grilled chicken are very popular. We smoke our own BBQ. Try our oatmeal cake, the most popular dessert we have. And we have wonderful shops in Bell Buckle. You will find things here you won’t find anywhere else.”