Shelby Forest General Store is Millington’s Burger Mecca

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Shelby Forest General Store

The tiny West Tennessee town of Millington houses a diamond in the rough. It’s a little dusty, and it’s definitely not fancy, sporting anything from fish bait to hot turkey melts. But, when you look closely, it sparkles with dignity, nobility and a history that spans eight decades.

Nestled between two entrances to the canopied forests of Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park sits a general store. But this isn’t just any general store. Built during the Great Depression, Shelby Forest General Store opened its doors in the summer of 1934, first as a dry goods store, and then evolving into a restaurant.

“There’s almost something spiritual about it,” says Doug Ammons, who owns the 80-year-old store with his wife, Kristin. “You just walk in, and there’s an aura about the place – a sense of community and casualness.”

The shelf that lines the back dining room is covered with items customers bring in, ranging from a grandmother’s bonnet to a great-granddaddy’s dipper, and many other beloved objects. “It’s their way of connecting with the store,” Ammons explains. “It’s their contribution; it connects them, their family, and their legacy.”

Think of it as a big living room, open to the community.

“It’s not pretty,” Ammons says. “It’s not fancy; it’s not modern; the floors have warps and blemishes and cracks. We have people come in in their pajamas and their bathrobes, for crying out loud.”

The customers are walking in for two things: community and food. Ammons admits a weakness for the patty melt, served on toasted rye bread with Swiss cheese spilling over the edges and packed with grilled onions. But the favorite item is the cheeseburger.

Shelby Forest General Store

Everyone from Memphis-born Justin Timberlake (who went to elementary school across the street) to old-timer regulars reverently laud the juicy burgers. In addition to delectable lunch items, the restaurant’s well-loved Friday night steak dinners ring in the weekend. Shelby Forest General Store is, in short, a gathering place for anyone who walks through the doors.

The community keeps the Ammons going. They took over the business on July 1, 2003, moving their family with two young daughters from the suburbs of Memphis to the rural beauty of the country. It was a complete lifestyle change.

“For me to come home and say, ‘We’re going to pack everything up, move to the country, and run this old store seven days a week’ took quite a bit of courage, initiative and craziness,” he laughs.

Yet he wouldn’t change a thing.

“Every day is fun, because I’m the luckiest guy alive.” His voice thickens with emotion, adding, “And every day, somebody will look at me and say, ‘Man, I’m so glad this store is still here.’ There’s no way you can put a price tag on that.”

The Dish on Shelby Forest General Store

Location: 7729 Benjestown Road, Millington, TN 38053
Phone: (901) 876-5770
Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The weekly steak dinner takes place on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

1 Comment

  1. Tim Thornton

    February 14, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Yep. This store has stood in the same place almost as long as the water tower next to it and is almost as famous. We used to sit on the front porch as kids (what seems like a hundred years ago), preachers kids from the Timberlake family and the Thornton family and when “city slickers” from Memphis would stop and ask for directions, we would tell them. “Well, if you drive down this way just a little ways, make your first right. Then drive a couple of miles and make another right at X landmark. Then when you get to the next road, go ahead and turn right again and follow it out to Hwy 59 on your way back to Memphis.” Of course, on a grid, 3 rights puts you right back where you started and when they came back confused, we would give them the same directions again and see if they were smart enough to follow 12 year old preacher’s kids (PK’s) twice. It was almost as much fun as scaling the fence and climbing the water tower in the middle of the night. Bragging rights on Monday morning at EE Jeter Elementary. Such was the life in the small town. It mostly kept us out of real trouble, but no one wanted to be standing by the third time a lost traveler returned from 3 right turns. My name is Tim Thornton. I grew up in this community and have since lived and traveled around the world. Shelby Forest is a good place to have called home. tT

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