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Joey, Rory help build a community with restaurant

The Associated Press, Monday, September 20, 2010, 3:46am (PDT)

POTTSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- When Rory Feek and his wife Joey moved to this rural area 45 miles south of Nashville they knew four people and were isolated from their neighbors.

Then they opened Marcy Jo's Mealhouse in an old general store with Rory's sister, Marcy Gary.

"We thought that it would give us a chance to meet a couple of neighbors and bring something to our community," Rory Feek said. "Not only did we meet hundreds and hundreds of people, but they've met each other. And so it's really become a hub of our community."

That community is at the center of Joey + Rory's new single and video, "This Song's For You," from their new "Album Number Two."

Pottsville's residents have been there for every step of the couple's surprise, feel-good music career and they figure heavily in the latest video. There's Cowboy Dan, the first customer at Marcy Jo's, the local judge, the mayor, a mechanic, a couple of grandmothers, a farmer and a few dozen others.

It's the Feeks' way of giving back for all the support their new friends have given them since they opened the restaurant about three years ago.

"A year after that we get cast on this TV show ('Can You Duet?' on CMT) and our whole community rallies and roots for us," Rory Feek, 45, said over a breakfast of steak and eggs. "They came to the show. Now it's the same thing. They're all so excited for everything that happens in our lives and it feels good to come home to."

Pottsville used to be a bustling little place. Highway 431 runs through its heart and was once the main thoroughfare to get to Nashville from points south before the nearby interstate came along. Marcy Jo's is in a building that dates back to 1891 and used to house a general store.

"This is where people came and got all their goods," Joey Feek said. "They sold shoes in the back and clothes."

It's had many lives since. The Feek family acquired it and went to work, doing most of the renovations themselves. The Feeks quickly found out when they opened the place they weren't the only ones who didn't know their neighbors.

"Through Marcy Jo's I've met cousins of mine that I never knew I had," said Ben Smith, a local farmer and consultant. "A lot of other good friends have emerged, too."

Locals aren't the only folks who can be found at Marcy Jo's. Tourists from out of state have started swelling the ranks since Joey and Rory began gaining attention with their first album, "The Life Of A Song." Residents from Nashville and other nearby places also make the trip, looking for a slice of rural life that doesn't really exist any more.

Gary says business is about half and half these days. Occasionally visitors will find Joey manning the oven or Rory eating breakfast.

Joey "will come in from the road all exhausted and I'll say, 'Jo, I really need you on Saturday,'" Gary said. "I like to keep her grounded, but I always like to keep her in the kitchen on Saturdays because if she's out here people are flashing cameras and wanting to talk. You can't get nothing done. So it's like, 'You come in, you bake today. Stay in the kitchen.'"

As they get more popular, Joey and Rory the performers find it hard to maintain the lifestyle created by Joey and Rory the people when they married eight years ago. Their first album was a surprise success, selling nearly 300,000 copies and opening the door to tour with Zac Brown, who is featured on the latest single, and other country stars.

The couple lives in a century-old farmhouse just down the road from the restaurant. They've got a cow named Shooter, a coop full of chickens, a big garden out back that has to be tended daily and dozens of little projects they no longer have time for because of a hectic touring schedule.

Time at home is precious and the restaurant is their refuge.

"I catch up with (customers and friends) and see how they're doing," the 35-year-old Joey said. "Last week we were on the road and Marcy called us and said a regular who comes here just passed away and it was heartbreaking to be gone. We were just so disappointed we weren't here. You really feel like they're part of your family."

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Online:

http://www.joeyandrory.com

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