By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The fall of 2019 was a landmark day in the lives of Andre Meyers and Janis Anderson.
The longtime business partners expanded their restaurant A&J’s Catfish Station to Millington opening at 7838 Church Street.
Then a global pandemic hit forcing the duo to make some tough decisions. On March 13, Meyers consulted with Anderson to close down the Millington eatery. Then the A&J franchise was solo again with just the 5950 Knight Arnold Road location in Memphis operating.
But the current working climate led to both A&J’s Catfish Stations being closed. Being in business for nearly 15 years, Meyers and Anderson made the decision to fight for their dream that started 25 years ago.
Toward the end of August the A&J’s Catfish Station in Millington reopened with limited hours of 3 to 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.
“Good to be back,” Meyers said. “Excited to be back in Millington. We were missed and we missed bing out here.
“It was a tough decision but we had so much trouble keeping help with all the COVID going on,” he added. “That was the main thing that hurt us, not having help.”
Anderson was over the Memphis location and since the temporary closure she had joined the workforce of A&J’s in Millington.
“Being back, we’re just glad to be back working because we had to close both of our restaurants at the same time,” she noted. “Due to the employment issues and struggles everybody is going through we were able to get it back open.
“We were able to get a few new hires to get us back open,” Anderson continued. “And that’s why we’re at limited hours because we’re currently training them now.”
Anderson said she is grateful for the current staff and hopes they’re on board for a long run. When A&J’s began 14 years ago, normally Anderson and Meyers would have to turn away potential cooks, servers and hosts.
“This is one of the most challenging things we had to face being in business together for so many years,” Anderson said. “Andre and I haven’t seen this before. Nobody is coming in putting in applications.
“They will put in an application over the internet,” she added. “You’ll call them and they won’t show up for the interview. The one that does show up for the interview and you offer them the position, they won’t come. That’s happening a lot and everybody (other business owners) said that’s been happening a lot.”
Those shenanigans frustrated Anderson and Meyers as they fought to keep their business open.
“When we closed this one down, it was not taken lightly because you invest so much of yourself and your money into it,” Anderson acknowledged. “And just to say ‘OK, we’ve got to let it go.’ That’s a tough decision because you do have other people’s lives you’re dealing with as well.”
Trying to hold on to any glimmer of hope during the late spring and early summer, the lack of legitimate candidates forced the decision for Anderson and Meyers.
“So when we went out to Knight Arnold, which was our busier store, it was having to get out there and work it,” Anderson recalled. “But we were still having the same employment issues. Then to close both of them at the same time, we a lot of anger, a lot of tears.
“It was like going through mourning,” she continued. “It was a grieving process. This is like our baby. People don’t understand, when you go into business it’s like a child. You birth it and then you grow it.”
The business partners are in the fight to keep A&J’s Catfish Station alive and to return it back to full strength. Meyers and Anderson are confident with the right kind of help they’re proven tools for success will help the restaurant rise like a phoenix.
“Right now my hope is being A&J Catfish Station for the past 14 years it’s no longer about our location,” Anderson said. “It’s about our reputation.
“We have built such a great customer service, we have consistent food and great recipes and we can do it in such a large way to have so many people coming back and coming back,” she concluded. “I see great things coming for A&J but this is an obstacle for us right now. This is an obstacle for everybody.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.