Fran’s serves up 50 years of food, friendship

Published 4:27 pm Saturday, September 19, 2009

Every community has a heart ––- a center –– a place where its stories are told and retold as people enjoy good food and friendly company.

In Pelham, Fran’s Restaurant is that center.

Fran Driver is the owner of this community cafe. Driver has been in business for 50 years. Originally, she was in another building just a couple of lots away.

“I was in that little building from ‘60-’68,” Driver said. “The teenagers –– I used to have lots of teenagers –– came up and ate after the football games.”

Before Interstate 65 was completed, when Pelham’s Alabama 31 was the major southbound passage, Driver was open 24 hours to feed travelers and truck drivers, as well as the locals. What happened to those teenagers from the ‘60s?

“Many of those teenagers are still with me today,” Driver said.

Driver’s original teenagers include Pelham businessmen Neil Bailey, Larry Clayton, Johnny Busby and Jack McGuire. Today, Fran’s Restaurant is open more manageable hours from 5 a.m.-6 p.m. Many of her former teenagers are among those who fill the restaurant for breakfast each morning.

At one large table, and many smaller tables as well, old friends enjoy one another’s company as they have their breakfasts. Friends rotate in and out of the seats, keeping the restaurant busy.

There’s not much of a break before the lunch crowd begins to arrive. The restaurant offers an early dinner and there’s always a glass of tea or a cup of coffee available throughout the day.

In the early days, Driver’s parents helped her run the restaurant. Today, her sister Pud and her daughter Beverly are among her most devoted employees. Regular customers describe Driver as generous, and attribute her business’s success to excellent food and her outgoing personality.

Even the artwork adorning the restaurant’s walls was created by Driver.

“The Good Lord’s been real good to me,” Driver said. “I was flat broke and I borrowed money to open this restaurant 50 years ago. I have faithful, good customers and I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. You ought to be good to people.”

Driver has befriended the residents of Pelham for the past 50 years.

Columnist Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at