The Outpost at Pickwick Dam
When Jay and Cher Harrison started over, they tried to ‘make a difference where they were.’ When Jay saw a need in the community for a restaurant, for jobs in the community, and he’d always been led to do something in the restaurant industry—although he’d never done it before. He wanted to do something that would give back, and the small place that he and Cher started is doing just that. Now, they are making a difference ‘where they are.’ Jay explained, “God kept telling me, as I worried about the country, and everything going on, keep your focus on me, and what we are doing here.”
“This place didn’t even have a stove, I had to cook biscuits in my kitchen at 3:30 to 4 am,” Jay smiled at the memory of their beginnings, “it was hard in the beginning, it was a bait shop and sometimes we’d only sell $50 or $60 all day, but I knew this was where we were going.” Jay and Cher began The Outpost in a bait shop, the original building, is now where you pay for the wonderful meals. Little by little, as God provided, they grew. First his wife, then their son, joined him in the restaurant, “it was such a privilege, such a blessing, to work side by side with my son, working in the kitchen, watching this dream come true, our dream come true.” Jay shared with us that Colby, their son, was in a car accident one afternoon on his way home, now five years ago. “I know that being able to work with my son like that was God’s gift to me.”
They started adding to the building as funds became available, first adding a porch, then enclosing it and adding a deck, enclosing that deck, and adding more, always adding more. “It just started growing, as we could pay for it, and it continues to grow.” Jay grinned, “We started picking up garbage in front of the place, now we pick up garbage for about two miles, and we’ve just acquired about 12 acres further down the road...we’ve got good plans for that.” Jay believes in giving people a chance, “We employ a lot of people, and we work with some folks [about 25% of their folks] that have been in jail, they are starting over.” Working with a ministry that helps people, giving them a second chance has been something that Jay has always wanted to do. “I’ve had to start over, and if it hadn’t been for my wife and her family, you know, when you don’t have anyone and you have to get back up again, it’s hard, really hard, that was my prayer, I want to help those people who need help. We give them a job, and we tell them if you aren’t prepared to grow, if you don’t want to do something, this isn’t the place for you. It’s awesome to see Moms get their children back, Dads step up to the plate to do what they need to do. I’m just glad to be able to help restore these people.”
The Outpost isn’t just a restaurant: it’s a place to come and enjoy—a ‘laughing spot’ that can bring back the childhood memories of summers spent in a cabin on the lake. “I want every child that comes to this place to find what comes from spending happy, family time together.” Jay shared a memory from his childhood, “When everyone is together, as a kid, it’s a little piece of heaven. As an adult, we yearn for that peace, that togetherness. I searched for that all my life, it’s like the love of God, and today we can’t hardly find that. As you get closer to the lake, you forget the stress, you’re talking, you’re hanging out together—no phones, no internet, no work, and it takes you back to the innocence of childhood.” That’s the great thing about Pickwick, if you want to go to Destin, you’re in the car for six hours, but you can get here in less than two, and you can spend that time that you would have been in the car on the water.
Because of the location, what Jay remembers as peace as a child has been built on, to give a part of that to everyone who comes, “We came here as a family, and that was the happiest time of my life, it gave me that peace that everyone is looking for. Before my parents divorced, it was so much fun and we had family time, I idolized my Dad, and when they started having problems, we stopped coming here.” Jay shared that he started on roads that eventually led to the ‘bottom’, he was every parent’s worst nightmare, always looking for what led to things that brought ‘money...status’ into his life. “If I can do something that brings families together, that’s what I want to do. If that gives them a taste of that family time, they will remember it all their life.”
“I’ve been so humbled in my life, I don’t want credit for nuttin’.” Jay explained, “God’s the one that gives us a vision, and as you put one piece together, he sends another and it becomes His canvas. There’s something about art—it’s depth, and has much more than you can see at first glance. As I began to put the brush to this canvas, it all started to come together, as I get one part painted, you can see what needs to be added. This is a puzzle piece, and there are lots of pieces before we all get it finished, but it’s in His time, not in mine. It’s like our kitchen, we now have two kitchens, one for our baking and one for the rest of the food, but now we’ve outgrown that and I really need to put the baking kitchen in the building that has the ice cream shop in it, as it’s growing, you know you can only do so much at one time.”
The setting of the Outpost and all of its buildings enhance the flavor of their delicious food. The atmosphere is so relaxing, it just makes you want to stop, stay, shop, and savor. The food is all made from scratch—for the most part—or hand breaded, even the vanilla wafers in the wonderful banana pudding are made from scratch. They have steaks, wraps, sandwiches, BBQ, ribs, and just about anything else you could want, all with an amazing flavor. It’s just a different home-made flavor, that spreads from the building, to the food, and to the smiling people who work there. The vibe spreads, and you can’t help but bask in it, no matter how long you have to wait to get in—and there are great places to wait, even a couple of Bed & Breakfast rooms, should you want to make the Outpost your headquarters for your lake stay. Jay has added buildings that house an antique shop, a woodworking shop, and an ice cream shop—and yes, it’s home-made too. The newest addition is The Lake House Gallery, which has added a sampling of the wares that are available at their larger shop in Pickwick. “It’s just a place to let people shop and relax as they wait to get into the restaurant”, supplied Lisa Eley, owner of The Lake House Gallery. Jay is very picky about who he lets rent space in his shopping area: they have to share his vision a little and want to give back to the community and the visitors who will be stopping by.
To get there:
Address: 2175 Highway 128, Savannah, Tennessee 38372
Phone: (731) 925-6990
Mon: 6am - 3pm
Tues-Thurs: 6am - 8pm
Fri-Sat: 6am - 9pm
Visit their Facebook page for more information and special events.