Madison Davis basically grew up in her father's barbecue restaurant, Shuford's Smokehouse. She said her father, Jeff, started her in the Chattanooga restaurant as a dishwasher when she was 14, and as the years went by, she moved up the chain of command.
Now, she owns her own Shuford's in Chickamauga.
"A lot of people come in and think my dad's back there cooking, but no, it's me," she said.
Jeff Davis bought the original restaurant in 1986 from its namesake, Shuford Johnson. For the past 33 years, the Davis family operated at the foot of Signal Mountain, but had to move out earlier this year following a mudslide that destroyed the neighboring Subway and led the city of Chattanooga to condemn the barbecue building.
The Davises were out of business for about eight weeks, searching for a new place to set up shop. Madison lives in Rossville but never thought her family would expand the business to Georgia.
Her father ended up moving the main operation to Red Bank (there's an additional location in Soddy-Daisy), but then a family friend, Lamar Jones, reached out about a move-in ready restaurant in Chickamauga.
"When I first saw this building, I knew this was it," Madison Davis said. The building previously housed Thatcher's Barbeque and Grille, and Crystal Springs Smokehouse before that. "I came down here and looked at it and I told my dad we had to do something with it."
Her father didn't want to abandon his loyal customers in Chattanooga after 30 years of business, "but he said that if I wanted to try it out, he'd support me," she said.
She opened the Chickamauga location on Sept. 4 and said business has been good so far. Davis said there have been a lot of repeat customers — transplants from across the border in Tennessee — who have been happy to see the new location.
There's one special item unique to the Chickamauga restaurant, loaded pork barbecue fries, which Davis said has taken off.
It's all a bit like moving away from home in a way, she said of the independence. "I miss working with my dad, and I think he misses working with me," she said. She estimates they call each other three to four times a day. "But it's exciting to have something of my own," she added.
She's eager to see what comes next.
"I want to get to know everybody the way I did in Signal," Davis said.
Shuford's Chickamauga is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 505 W. Ninth St. for dine-in or takeout meals.
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