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Bonding Over Barbecue

story by Alyssa Keown

The Dairyette is on Friendship Road, a fitting address for its homey feel. Friends and families pass through the restaurant every day, sharing stories and laughs over barbecue sandwiches and ice cream. Owner Roy Bohannon decorates the walls with photos of the people of Paducah.

"I don't want you to come one time," Roy says about about his customers. "Come back."

Roy worked for a chemical company for 19 years until 2009, when the economy plummeted. Always planning to retire from the company and open his own barbecue restaurant, Roy suddenly found himself out of a job. So he and his wife, Becky, bought the Dairyette, which has served Paducah for more than 60 years.

"I'm still humbled and nervous," he says about business ownership.

Roy says the hardest part of running Dairyette is hiring the right people, because he believes employees help to keep the tradition of Dairyette alive. He says he is blessed to have the staff he does. Some of the kids have been working there since high school and are continuing to work through college.

"As an owner, you can't do this by yourself, (you must) surround yourself with the right people," Roy says. "Without them, I couldn't do it."

Roy says Dairyette carries a lot of history, and new memories are made every day. When Roy framed the first dollar he made and put it on the wall, a delivery man taped a second dollar up as a joke. Now, customers sign their names on dollar bills and hang them up to leave their mark on Dairyette.

"A lot of people think of this as their second home," says Eric Gross, a regular customer.

"Knowing what I know now, I wish I did this 20 years ago," Roy says. "God closed one door, I lost my job. But he opened another one, and I am so blessed. It's been the best eight years of my life."

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Dairyette's fourth owner, Roy Bohannon, treats his customers like family. He high fives twins Lauren and Haneline Kennedy. "That's what this is about, the kids," says Roy.

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Dairyette regulars Wes and Mary Cossibolm celebrate their 16th anniversary over a strawberry sundae.

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Charles Sweat, 76, enjoys lunch at Dairyette on a Thursday afternoon. "I've been coming here now for 40 years," says Charles.

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Roy's wife Becky serves customers from the pick-up window. Roy and Becky bought Dairyette together, and they take turns opening and closing the restaurant.

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Crewmember Caleb Gilliam shows off his tattoo of the Dairyette logo girl. Caleb works at Dairyette with his wife, Marcella.

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Roy fist bumps Shane Parker, who is called "The Bear," a character who is on the bottle of Dairyette's barbecue sauce.

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Sarah Moore feels her co-worker Amandalynn Thomas's belly. Amandalynn is 32 weeks pregnant with her second child.

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Marvin and Janie Devers have lunch with their children Charles Johnson and Janie Ottoway. "The greatest people in the world come here," says Roy. "It's a family restaurant."