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The Gathering Place

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Until recently, downtown Lovejoy resembled a ghost town.

Many of the city's downtown businesses went under during the recent economic recession, including the city's biggest draw -- The Country Bumpkin -- a popular, southern-style, dining establishment at 11714 Hastings Bridge Road.

While recent city development has produced a park, an open-air market, and a community center, residents in Lovejoy's historic downtown area still had no place to eat, and "sit a spell."

The building housing what was once The Country Bumpkin was abandoned for more than a year and a half, until recently, that is. The location is now the home of the Lovejoy Diner. Earlier this year, after retiring from a 21-year career at the Sears Department Store, and a 24-year career with the Army and Air Force Exchange Services at Fort Gillem, Stockbridge resident, Connie Stubblefield, decided to follow her dreams to open a restaurant.

After three months of remodeling, Connie and her husband, Joe, opened the Lovejoy Diner. Since opening for business on May 8, the restaurant has developed a loyal following, hungry for an old-fashioned southern dining experience, in the southern end of Clayton County.

"I've always loved to cook," said Connie Stubblefield. "We've always visited places like this, and we always thought we could do better, or as well, as they could. It's hard to cook for just Joe and me, so I am really getting to cook now. People come by here everyday and thank us for opening this place. They act like we are doing them a big favor. We have a lot of repeat customers."

The hours of operation are from 7 a.m., to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Lovejoy Dinner serves a full breakfast and lunch menus, with most plates going for between $4 and $7. The restaurant serves up a wide variety of familiar dishes, including eggs, pancakes, smoked ham, fried chicken, country-fried steak, meat loaf, chicken pot pie, chopped sirloin, homemade pies, soups, fried okra, various casseroles, fried green tomatoes, a number of hamburgers and sandwiches, and desserts, such as pear salad and strawberry shortcake.

"I like to use homemade stuff, not a lot of canned stuff," Stubblefield said. "We peel the potatoes and mash them ... they are not instant."

Lovejoy City Manager Sebastian Jackson said the restaurant has quickly become a hit with locals. He said the parking area, sometimes, can't contain the number of the people who want to eat there.

"Every time I drive by the Lovejoy Diner, there are always people parked all the way to the grass," Jackson said. "They are definitely bringing business back to the downtown area."

Several things make Lovejoy Diner unique. The restaurant pays a subtle homage to Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Its bus cart bears a portrait of the NASCAR legend, and the bathrooms are dotted with Earnhardt-related collectibles and memorabilia.

The restaurant is a family business in the truest sense of the word. Joe Stubblefield's two daughters, Chyenne, 34, and Christy, 33, serve customers. His son-in-law, Phillip Hemphill, is the kitchen manager. His wife, Connie, is the primary owner and cook, and his former-wife, Vicki, works the register.

"We all get along," the Stubblefield patriarch said. "We all have the same goal of making this place work, and making it a place where people like to come. We hope we are successful for the neighborhood and the city. We hope to be around for a long time." For more information, call (770) 471-2200.