Decor Restoration

Ever noticed the artifacts hanging from the walls and ceiling at any Cracker Barrel location? Most folks are surprised to learn all the old toys, tools, utensils, signs, and advertisements are original. Since the artifacts in every store are unique, we like to think of every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store location as a museum of Americana.

You could say that Cracker Barrel decor is a family affair, because one family has purchased all the artifacts since the first store opened back in 1969. Don and Kathleen Singleton owned an antique store in Lebanon when founder Danny Evins asked them to provide that Old Country Store look in his new restaurant. Don and Kathleen liked the job, and eventually passed it down to their son Larry in 1980.

Now the Singletons have purchased well over a half million artifacts over the years. But there's a process behind the scenes that takes place before we place these items in a store. Larry's team will clean and restore every piece before it gets placed in a new Cracker Barrel Old Country Store location.

Larry's story has become quite popular with feature reporters. Take a photo tour of the Décor Warehouse and you'll see why. The following photographs can be reprinted in your publications. Just e-mail us with your photo specifications and we'll get them to you as soon as possible. We can also arrange interviews with Larry and a time for you to take pictures at your local Cracker Barrel location.

Larry Singleton, manager of the Décor Warehouse, has purchased more than 600,000 artifacts over the years.

He inherited the job from his parents who helped find the decor for the very first Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® location. Larry's artifacts are now on display in more than 600 Cracker Barrel locations.

Larry's purchases find new life in the décor warehouse. Each year we clean, restore and organize thousands of artifacts including dusty farm tools, metal business signs, family photographs, hand-crank telephones, cast-iron cookware and old-fashioned toys.

We start with soap, water and a little elbow grease, preserving a worn look that reminds folks of simpler times.

Removing dirt and rust can be a tiresome challenge, especially on items that have been kept in barns for years. We often "sand-blast" stains, rust and paint from items like antique coffee grinders, cream separators, boat motors, lanterns and washtubs.

Once all the rust and old paint is gone, we add some "touch-up" paint to restore the artifact to its original appearance, or at least to a point of how it looked inside the old Sears® catalog.

When old photographs like this one are reframed, we sometimes find other photos or old newspaper clippings hidden behind the photo. When the restoration on an itemis complete, it gets moved to another section of the warehouse where the design process takes place.

You could call the front half of the warehouse an organized attic. Rows and rows of shelves hold artifacts separated by category.

Designers place every artifact on "mock" walls that are the exact dimensions of a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® location. The design for every store is created at the Décor Warehouse.

Designers place more than 950 original artifacts in every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® location. More than 475,000 artifacts are currently displayed in over 600 of our locations in 42 states. Smaller items are placed in shadowboxes, like the one next to Wade Winfree's arm. Shadowboxes enable us to create a theme by displaying several smaller items that are similar in nature.

When all of the 900 artifacts are selected and placed, designers photograph each wall to show where the items will be placed when the shipment arrives at the new location. Designers later travel to the new location to install the items. These photographs help them remember where everything goes.

Have you noticed those bar code tags attached to every artifact? Every item is tagged for inventory purposes. When the artifacts are selected, we take an inventory of them and keep a record on file for each item. Many times stores and guests will call with questions about specific items. Through the bar code system, we can track down many answers.

From the mock walls to shrink-wrapped cases, all the artifacts are stacked for their future destinations. This shipment was later installed in Charleston, West Virginia. Not shown is the deer head that's installed in every Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® location, directly above the fireplace.