Bates House of Turkey Still Smokin’ after 50 years
By Caleb Hicks
A trip along I-65 through Greenville almost isn’t complete without a stop at Bates House of Turkey, which marked its 50th year dishing out the goods March 4.
Becky Bates Sloane, owner and operator of the restaurant, said she is proud and humbled to keep up a tradition her parents started in 1970 after the completion of I-65. The new road rerouted traffic from the farm’s plant location on U.S. 31 where they originally started selling turkey.
“We bought the property, and it was originally just supposed to be a sandwich shop,” Becky said. “Daddy had always sold a lot of turkeys with people stopping by the plant. All of us (children) used to take turns sitting at the office on Saturdays and Sundays selling turkeys to travelers. Once the interstate was built, we needed another plan.”
Purchasing the property proved to be the right choice. In 2019 alone, the restaurant hustled to dish out roughly 25,000 turkey dinners and 50,000 hickory-smoked turkey sandwiches to passersby, something Becky said is a family affair.
“There were five siblings, so seven people in the house total when I was growing up,” she said. “Each of my brothers and my sister all have done different parts of this business, but I always enjoyed helping my mother do the cooking in the kitchen. Now, my daughter and two of my grandchildren work at the restaurant.”
Becky was 19 when her parents opened the restaurant. At the time, she was studying home economics at the University of Montevallo. During her time home from college for holidays and weekends, she would fill in at the restaurant, which provided much insight and memories she holds close to her still.
“I worked here 25 years with my mother before she passed away,” Becky said. “The biggest lesson I ever learned from her was to take care of the little things, and the big things take care of themselves. She taught me so much.”
Becky’s daughter, Michelle Sloane, who helps manage the restaurant, said she also has many fond memories growing up in the family business.
“As a kid, when we would come down and visit my grandmother here (in Greenville), you would walk in the back door and get hit with the delicious smell of the dressing she’d cook every morning,” she said. “I still come in, and that smells takes me right back.
“I couldn’t have paid for what I got out of working with my mom and grandmother for 20 years. Now, my son and my niece both work here. Sharing that experience with them and carrying on that tradition is just priceless.”
For Becky, the reason for continuing the legacy that goes back 50 years has also been because of the employees.
“The people who work here with us are our family, and it’s always been that way,” Becky said. “People who have retired from here have grandchildren here now. When you have family behind you, supporting you, it’s easier to be more successful.”