Photo by Annette Joyce/NWO | Jerry Joyner, his wife Glaisa (shown in photo) and Joynerís three daughters work as a team to ensure Parkerís in Stokesdale continues to serve homecooked meals long into the future, just as it has since 1958.
Photo by Annette Joyce/NWO | Parkerís Home Cookiní Restaurant on U.S. 158 in Stokesdale opened as Parkerís Cafť on Aug. 11, 1958.
by ANNETTE JOYCE
People just passing through Stokesdale wouldn't take much notice of the small unassuming building sitting near the crossroads of U.S. 158 and Ellison Road. However, if they're looking for some authentic and delicious home cookin' served up with a side of town history, it's worth stopping by Parker's Home Cookin' Restaurant, known by most people simply as "Parker's."
Originally dubbed Parker's Café, the restaurant was established by husband and wife Parker and Lucie Joyner. Parker purchased the 3.5 acres on which to build the restaurant from his father-in-law, Clay Wilson, who lived in the family farmhouse across the highway.
When Parker's Café opened in August 1958, it served not only as a local eatery but also as home to the Joyners and their five children, who occupied two bedrooms and a bath located at the back of the restaurant beside the kitchen.
It's hard to imagine a family of seven fitting into such a small space, but Jerry Joyner, the eldest of the Joyners' children and current owner of the restaurant, said it worked fine for the family, which eventually grew to include two more children. Jerry added that the family ate all their meals in the restaurant's dining area and rarely sat down together for a meal.
He remembers how isolated the area surrounding Parker's was when his father started building the café.
"As he was building the restaurant, people would stop and tell him he was going to starve to death in the middle of nowhere," Jerry said. "(Plus) people didn't eat out much back then. (Even so), after the first day, he knew he was going to be okay."
Parker added a small motel beside the café and in 1963 built the family a separate home behind the restaurant. On the same property sits a "round" house where Parker and Lucie resided until Parker passed away in 1994. Lucie still lives in the unique structure. The motel has been converted into apartments where his sister, Linda, lives while Jerry and his wife, Glaisa, live in the original family home. Jerry said Linda refers to the property as "the Joyner compound."
Growing up, all six of the Joyner brothers worked in the restaurant. Linda was responsible for cleaning the house and the motel. Back then, Parker's served up hamburgers at 15 cents each and hot dogs for 10 cents. A drink added another dime to the meal. Country-style steak, along with a couple of vegetables, was available every day.
While most of his brothers headed in different career directions, Jerry had developed a love of the food industry. After several stints in various eateries, he ended up at Piccadilly Cafeteria in Greensboro. He started out as an assistant baker and within four months took over as head baker; from there, he quickly moved into the company's management program where he learned the ins and outs of running a restaurant.
"The program was better than any college or school for learning the business," Jerry said. "They teach you to cook and you have to go through every job."
In 1978, Jerry came to Parker's full of ideas about making the business better. During the next 16 years, he mostly worked with his family, leaving once to start a restaurant in High Point. When that business failed, he returned to Parker's and in 1994 took over the operation of the family business.
Just what is it that's made this little family-owned place so popular?
The answer is simple: it's the food.
"We eat most of our meals here, so we go above and beyond to ensure quality and taste," Jerry said. "We use only real butter in our cooking and do our best to make sure our customers are eating quality, wholesome foods every time."
Homemade biscuits are made from scratch, as well as the hushpuppies, onion rings and cornbread. And there are specials every day, including meat loaf on Mondays and country-style steak on Thursdays. When Jerry mentioned "fried chicken on Fridays," a customer leaned around him to note it more aptly should be described as "world famous fried chicken."
It is those kinds of customers who have contributed to the restaurant's long-term success.
"Most of the folks are regulars, but we get new people, too," Jerry said. "A lot of guys come in almost every day for breakfast and we have people who come here three or four nights a week. Customers tell me all the time about how someone else told them to come by."
About six years ago, Jerry stepped back from the business and let his wife and three daughters, Sheena Rumley, Amy Joyner and Misty Manley, handle the daily operations. He keeps his hands in the business by making deliveries and taking care of the bookkeeping.
And, he also keeps dreaming about what the next phase of Parker's will look like. He likes the idea of expanding the existing structure, but his real dream is adding a two-story round building with a restaurant on the first floor and a banquet area on top.