By Tammy Moore Teague
It was her mother who told her, “a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Darla Dobbs said it was that memory accompanied by the alluring smell that consumed the home of her great aunt, Geraldean Miller, that shaped her future. “You never went to Aunt Jerry’s that there wasn’t food cooking and you never left her house hungry,” said Dobbs. “I knew that’s how I wanted to be remembered when I grew up.”
Dobbs, nicknamed Jessi, is the sole owner of Backbone Mountain BBQ in Huntington. This restaurant is the product of her passion for the business. Although Dobbs spent most of her adult life in Greenville, South Carolina, she decided to return to her family roots and move back to Arkansas. It was then she met her now husband, Jerry Dobbs. “He was well known for his BBQ around Sugar Loaf Lake and our talents and desires became one.” The couple married September 23, 2016. Dobbs recalled the memory of her step-son walking her down the aisle. It was a special time for her as she had experienced the tragic loss of her own son at age 16. Dustin filled that void she had by accepting her as his own mother and making them a complete family.
This very personal loss was not the only adversity she has faced in her life. As work and repairs were being made to the restaurant, Dobbs experienced a major health setback and underwent a double masectomy. Financial difficulties also threatened the future of the business. “We reached a point where we were completely broke. The bills were stacking up, but my sister Carla and brother-in-law Buddy decided they wanted to help both physically and financially. What a Godsend!” Both encouraged Dobbs in times she felt like giving up. “My sister was my backbone,” she explained.
The greatest hardship was yet to come, however. As the restaurant opened on February 7, Dobbs mother fell ill. Dobbs had envisioned her mother being a big part of the operation. This plan was not to be as she passed on February 10. “I was and am still crushed.” In memory of her mother, she offered a free dessert to all moms on Mother’s Day.
Dobbs finds encouragement in the things that she says is a demonstration of God’s grace. Its through His grace that she has been able to overcome these difficulties and find success in that little restaurant on the top of Huntington Hill. The food served mimics that homemade comfort food she was raised on. It has made for a down home atmosphere as well. “We’re a big happy family and the good Lord has put all the right people here,” explained Dobbs.
She employees three workers and has one who just volunteers her time. “Tim helps in the kitchen, he’s my grill cook and Teresa and Haylee are waitresses and Rae volunteers her time here waitressing or in the kitchen, just anywhere need her on or off the job and that goes for any of my employees. They are all wonderful, just like family.”
Her plans are to retire one day, but not before she expands into the catering business. She hopes her story is an encouragement to others. “There’s nothing you can’t do, and where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Dobbs concluded. “The Bible says where two or more are gathered in my name and He abides in me and I in Him you can ask anything of the Lord and He will give it to you! It’s been a long road getting here but I sure have enjoyed the ride!”