Tommy Pounders greets his regulars by name, welcoming them out of the rainy December day into the warmth of JJ’s, a tiny diner on U.S. 72. It’s one of two restaurants in the Northwest Alabama town of Cherokee, population 1,000.
The lunch crowd fills nearly every table – guys on break from the chemical and paper manufacturing plants nearby; retired couples eating their usual; the former mayor and his wife chatting with neighbors; a pair of friends dressed head to toe in camouflage.
JJ’s is the kind of place where the waitress doesn’t bring menus to the table because everybody already knows what they want. It’s now owned by Pounders’ wife Janie, though there’s been a restaurant in that location since the highway was built in the 1960s.