Joy and Jimmy Shierling know a thing or two about catfish. Joy's parents, H.B. and Ina Mae Pritchett, bought a grocery store on Buena Vista Road in 1946 and transformed it into Pritchett's Kitchenette. Their specialty was all-you-can-eat catfish, and the price was right.
Joy recalls, "Back then we had to clean our own fish. They didn't come in cleaned. We had to clean them."
Joy and her husband Jimmy enjoyed working in the family business and eventually opened their own kitchenette in Phenix City.
Pritchett's did such a good business, it wasn't unusual for customers to have to wait awhile to eat. "Unless they got there real early, it was always an hour, an hour-and-a-half," Joy remembers.
One of the big draws for Pritchett's, besides the food, was the way the restaurant was laid out. Customers got to eat in their own private room. But the restaurant could also accommodate large parties.
Joy says, "We could open some of the rooms that had partitions between them where you could make it as along as you wanted to take a big group."
Janet Davis is the president and CEO of TIC Federal Credit Union and has fond memories of Pritchett's. "We'd get together for birthdays and just celebrate and talk...and all-you-can-eat, good ole southern cooking."
Janet especially remembers the music at Pritchett's. "The jukebox playing on the wall was just one of those things as a young kid that was the thing we loved most, pushing those buttons and putting those quarters in."
Buddy Helton owns the Chevron on 13th and Veterans Parkway in Columbus. He and his customer B.R. Johnson were both big Pritchett's fans.
Helton recalls, "They'd bring you a load of fish and you'd just divide them up, hand them the empty platter and they'd go bring you another platter. And you'd eat 12 or 13 of them things!"
Johnson says he proposed to his wife Helen at Pritchett's in Phenix City.