A Different Kind Of “Soul Food:" How One Woman Is Spreading Joy By Feeding People In Her Town For Free
It doesn't matter if you have $1,000 in your pocket or nothing at all. She'll still feed you, no questions asked.
Tucked away in a small Alabama town sits a mom and pop restaurant with large glass windows and a beautiful brick front. Inside the restaurant, you'll see tables and booths, some art on the walls and a serving station at the front. What you won't see, however, is a cash register.
That's because Drexell & Honeybee's is a donation only restaurant. Diners can eat what they need and pay what they can. And, if they don't have a dime to spare, that's okay, too. In fact, according to the restaurant's website, there's only one rule for people to follow: "Everybody eats."
Drexell & Honeybee's sits on a street corner near the edge of town in Brewton, AL. Drexell & Honeybees/Facebook
Drexell & Honeybee's offers a southern style menu with options like cornbread, fried chicken and collard greens. After diners are finished with their meals, they're encouraged to leave whatever they can in a donation box, even if it's just some spare change or a handwritten note to show their appreciation.
The owners of the place are Freddie and Lisa Thomas-McMillan, a husband and wife team, who opened the restaurant with no intention of making a profit. Any money they do raise goes back to serving their community. So, if not money, what do the Thomas-McMillans "get" out of their unique business model?
Lisa and Freddie Thomas-McMillan started the restaurant in 2018 as a way to serve others. Drexell & Honeybees/Facebook
The answer? A whole lotta joy.
"Make no mistake, joy is not the same thing as happiness," Lisa told the Bitter Southerner. "Happiness is fleeting; joy is something down in your soul. The more you do, the more you're able to do, and the richer you become."
The restaurant serves anyone and everyone - and there are no price tags on any dish. Drexell & Honeybees/Facebook
Doing more for others is something Lisa learned at a young age. She recalls a memory from her childhood when she asked one of her classmates to swap half of her better-looking sandwich for Lisa's plain old peanut butter and jelly. The girl happily agreed, and they continued the trade for the remainder of the school year.
"She was a generous, compassionate person, she wasn't selfish," Lisa said in a video made by It's A Southern Thing. "I knew then that angels walked among us."
The restaurant offers a traditional mix of southern "soul food" options like cornbread, okra and fried chicken. Drexell & Honeybees/Facebook
The lesson carried through to adulthood, and Lisa has been paying it forward ever since. Over the years, she's run a food bank, opened her home to the needy and has advocated to bring an end to hunger by walking hundreds of miles to deliver hand-written letters to Alabama's Governor and President George W. Bush. (She didn't get to meet either of them.)
Lisa says the notes she receives every day from her customers are just as rewarding as getting cash. Drexell & Honeybees/Facebook
Like most restaurants, Drexel & Honeybee's has had to adjust to the new Covid-19 regulations – but, that hasn't stopped the generous Alabama family from doing what they love.
"The end of June we figured out a way to do to-go orders and keep everyone safe," Lisa said. "It's working out very well and we feel so proud to be able to do what we do, with COVID-19 affecting so many people."
The couple's generosity is well-known in the community, and Lisa says her customers are like family. Drexell & Honeybees/Facebook
While donations may be down due to the pandemic, Lisa is confident that what they're doing to help the community is more important now than ever – no matter the cost.
"The more you do, the more you're able to do, and the richer you become. Not with things or money. With love," she said. "I don't think nothing can top that."
Check out this video to learn more about what inspired Lisa to start Drexel & Honeybee's (you may need a tissue!):
video c/o It's A Southern Thing