Restaurateur began by serving others
As a teenager, Tammy Neese Spears was washing dishes and working beside her mother, a life-long restaurant server.
Spears credits her mother with her success today as the owner of Our Hometown Philadelphia coming out of the pandemic on her one-year anniversary.
“I was washing dishes and working with my mom as early as 13 years old,” Spears said. “It’s because of her that I have a strong restaurant background. She was a server her entire life, and I learned a lot from not only working along with her but also watching her.”
Since those early beginnings, Spears has gone from washing dishes to serving people and owning her own restaurant as the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago.
She has served food from Texas to Delaware and two decades ago her life’s journey brought her back home to Neshoba County.
Spears recalled spending summers with her two sisters and her brother selling peanuts and rolling down hills while helping tend the garden of her grandparents, Vivian “Bill” Lee Neese and Katherine Bethany Neese, in the Linwood community.
Spears attended Neshoba Central High School until she was 17 and moved to Texas to seek treatment for a health condition where she took her first job as a server at the International House of Pancakes in Oak Cliff, Texas.
While in Texas she met and married her first husband, a man who also had a restaurant background. They moved to Delaware and managed a seasonal restaurant The Avenue at Rehoboth Beach until 1995.
That’s when they moved to Philadelphia to open the Philadelphia House of Pancakes in what used to be an old Ward’s Hamburgers on Holland.
In February of 1999, they moved into what is now the Dickey’s Barbecue location in the Canal Place Shopping Center since they needed more space.
Then they moved to The Depot in May 2010 and divorced later that year. He bought the restaurant in 2013 and then last year she bought him out and changed the name.
In the meantime, she married her high school sweetheart, Kenneth Spears. She rebranded the the restaurant Our Hometown Philadelphia because Philadelphia is their home and reflects their long and now closer relationship.
She celebrated her first anniversary with the restaurant last month after a year of COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.
Spears has worked hard to re-establishing the business, earning trust back from customers and keeping business going while being understaffed.
“We added employees little by little over time, but right after opening in April, there were only two employees doing everything,” she said.
“We did curbside-only deliveries for around three months, and then started doing 25% capacity in the restaurant under the mask mandate.”
She said the hardest part of keeping the business going through the past year during the pandemic was keeping employees and staying staffed.
“At one point I was working 12-16 hours a day and had to give myself a break,” she said. “However, we were able to pull through. The townspeople have been great, the response has been wonderful, and they know that I’ll take care of them here.”
She said that luckily no one in the restaurant had or has come down with COVID-19.
“My goal of opening Our Hometown Philadelphia is to let people know that I’m back and that I’m continuing my restaurant legacy here,” she said.
In her spare time, she and Kennth enjoy spending time with her daughters in Hattiesburg and his here.
They enjoy vacationing in Wiggins at the Flint Creek Water Park. She also enjoys tending to her garden and flowers.
She has six college-age children — five daughters and a son — from her first marriage and two step-daughters with Kenneth, along with two step-grandchildren here.
Spears intends to keep on keeping on with the restaurant and looks forward to serving others as things return to normal.