OBITUARY: James B. ‘Hap’ Townes, restaurateur


OBITUARY: James B. ‘Hap’ Townes, restaurateur

SUSAN T. LEATHERS

Franklin Home Page
Middle Tennessee lost one of its great restaurateurs late Thursday with the death of James B. “Hap” Townes of Brentwood. A Nashville native, Townes was a legend in food circles for the namesake restaurant he and his father, the original Hap, opened together in 1946. Hap Townes Restaurant, located near Greer Stadium on Humphreys Street, remained in the family until the younger Townes sold it in 1985.

Franklin Home Page
Middle Tennessee lost one of its great restaurateurs late Thursday with the death of James B. “Hap” Townes of Brentwood.

A Nashville native, Townes was a legend in food circles for the namesake restaurant he and his father, the original Hap, opened together in 1946. Hap Townes Restaurant, located near Greer Stadium on Humphreys Street, remained in the family until the younger Townes sold it in 1985.

Townes’ father, the original Hap, operated a “pie wagon” on Nashville’s First Avenue across from what was then the general hospital.  The restaurant on wheels had about 15 stools on each side and served people from all walks of life. Then known as Bev, the younger Townes started working there when he was 10. He credited his father for teaching him how to greet people.

In 1946, after he returned from the service, father and son built the “new” restaurant together.  When his father retired, Beverly Townes not only took over the restaurant, he took over the name too.

Hap Townes Restaurant had “no alcohol, no jukeboxes, no pinball. Nothing to bring in the people you don’t want,” he told Brentwood Home Page in 2009. It did bring in lots of business from Music Row and the nearby hosiery mill however.

Country music stars and others from all walks of life made their way to the meat-and-three that switched out its menu board every day but always had stewed raisins.

The restaurant also drew the attention of many well-known food writers and commentators, including Jane and Michael Stern. The couple penned two of the many articles in “gallery” set up in a hallway of the Meadowlake home he shared with his wife Anne for almost 40 years. They also wrote about him and shared his recipe for “Shockingly Sweet Stewed Tomatoes” in their book, Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007).

The gallery of framed newspaper and magazine clippings, proclamations and other recognitions also includes a Sept. 21, 1989 Nashville Banner front page which features a picture of Townes and City Café owner Jerry Cunningham behind the City Café’s steam line on its opening day at its original Wilson Pike Circle location.

Cunningham, who still operates the City Café, a meat-and-three now located in the Brentwood Place Shopping Center, considered Townes not only a mentor in the food business, but his best friend.

“I had no idea when we opened the restaurant that what started out as a close friendship would turn into a love affair,” Cunningham said Friday. “I count him as my father figure, and basically, that’s what he was.

“Hap and I talked almost every day for the last 20 years. It was a real special relationship that went deep.”

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brentwood United Methodist Church, and again from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday prior to a 2 p.m. Celebration of Life service in the sanctuary. Bishop Robert Spain will officiate. Private interment will take place prior to the service.

Brentwood Home Page will have more complete obituary information as soon as it is available.

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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