Changing Lives… One Bite at a Time

Roots + Wings with Rory Feek


About a mile from our farmhouse sits a ram-shackled old general store with a hard lean to the south and chipping paint that flutters away like the leaves in the fall. It barely looks inhabitable, let alone like a place that’s thriving, but it is. The parking lot is filled with cars most days from 7am ’til the lunch rush is over, bearing license plates from distant places: Vermont, California, Illinois, and pretty much everywhere in between. On the front porch, there’s an hour-long line of folks with their names on the list, and inside, the tables are hopping. They’ve all come for one thing that’s not even listed on the menu… to have their lives changed.

Now, you wouldn’t think biscuits and gravy or a cinnamon roll could change anyone’s life, at least for the better, but they have. First off, starting with my sister Marcy. She and my wife, Joey, opened “Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse” in early 2007, and nothing about her life today remotely resembles what it did when they cut the ribbon and turned on the “open” sign for the first time. The restaurant has given her life purpose and meaning. And much to her surprise, it’s even made her “rurally” famous. Like myself, she gets stopped in the produce aisle at the grocery store and pumping gas at Love’s. People just want to shake her hand and tell her how much they love the restaurant and the food there. 

It had all begun as an idea over a cup of coffee at our kitchen table, with Marcy saying, “Hey Jo, we should turn that old run-down store on the corner into a coffee shop.” And since Joey’s dream of having a music career was in what you might call a lull, she was quick to say, “Why not?” A few months later, they served their first customer; a neighbor named Danny Smith, who liked the restaurant and the food so much that the next time he showed up, he had a brand-new A/C unit on his shoulder. He’d seen how hot the kitchen got and wanted to try to help them the same way they were trying to help the community. Danny had grown up in our area and missed the days when neighbors and friends had a place to gather and drink coffee, shoot the bull, or find out if someone was in need of something. In no time, the back table of the cafe became his and a bunch of other old codgers’ morning hangout. 

It didn’t take long for the Mealhouse to begin to change the life of our little community. I’d been living at our farm for seven years by then and knew hardly any of my neighbors, and the cafe gave Joey and me—and Marcy—the opportunity to meet our neighbors and for them, in turn, to meet others. Soon, just like my sister’s life, our little corner of the world was a little different, better than it was before.

It didn’t take long for it to change Joey’s life, too, in a big way. Before then, mostly working at horse-vet clinics, my wife had never worked for herself or even thought about it. And although opening the restaurant was exciting, it was also scary for her. She didn’t know if she’d be any good at it or if anyone would like the recipes they made. I can still remember one afternoon that first spring when Joey got out of her truck and put her arms around me, almost in tears, and whispered, “People really seem to love what we’re doing, what we’re making…” She was so proud of what she and Marcy had created. It changed her. For the first time, she was able to see what she was capable of, what God could do, if you were brave enough to trust Him. In the coming decade, that would happen over and over again, and Joey and I would find ourselves in awe of what He’s done. 

And then, in July 2012, when the first episode of The Joey+Rory Show aired, that little building began to change the lives of strangers from all walks of life in faraway places—or at least impact them enough to get in their cars, trucks, SUVs and RV’s and make the drive here to Middle Tennessee to see the Mealhouse for themselves. At the end of each of the 52 cooking segments on the TV series, where Joey and Marcy shared one of their favorite recipes, they would end with, “…There you have it folks. Come see us at Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse…



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Rory Feek is a world-class storyteller, songwriter, filmmaker, and New York Times best-selling author. As a musical artist, Rory is one-half of the Grammy-award-winning duo, Joey+Rory. He and his wife, Joey, toured the world and sold nearly a million records, before her untimely passing in March 2016.


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