OH, IF walls could talk! The building at 114 W. Market St. has served the public in one form or another since the 1860s when jail cells encased in limestone housed the city’s inmates. The walls were pages etched with doodles and scribblings to pass the time of those doing time. They were silent witnesses to whispered stories of shenanigans and truths withheld on a witness stand. They heard the sighs and moans of new intakes and the whoops and hollers of those on their way out.
After a fire destroyed the wooden fire station addition to the jail, the city added a cinderblock firetruck garage behind the cells. The fire station walls tell a different story — stories of late-night alarms, exhausted firefighters, and fellowship around the dining table. Stories of loss and reconstruction were told within them, testifying to the strength and fortitude of the close-knit community.
When the city vacated the building on fire hall hill in 1970, only silence remained until it answered a call to service to the public. With a sigh of relief, in 1987, the walls warmly welcomed the first customers who came hungry for good food and conversation at Cahoots.
Cahoot’s owner, Flo Williams said, “My dad, William R. Carter, bought the building in the late ‘60s when they built the new fire station right down the street. My dad loved buildings, dirt, and land. He was a contractor with his own construction company. The greatest thing about it is that it’s a historic building. It was our fire station even back when there were horse-drawn carriages. It’s really neat to think a horse stood where you’re now eating.”
Committed customer service from dedicated employees shines a positive light on the role played by the old building for more than 36 years.
“No one can run a restaurant by themself. You have to have good people, and I have good people; some have been there for 25 years or more. When you work in a business like this, you, along with your people, miss a whole lot of things in life, so you have to have the support of your family. My two girls know my love for it, and they’ve been great. Working Tuesday through Saturday, most of us can’t move our bodies by Sunday,” Williams said.
Williams and her team help us celebrate the things they often miss, much like the public servants of the jail and fire hall, years ago.
“From reunions to birthday parties, receptions, getting to see old friends, everything, and I love seeing that,” she said. “We’re another place in town for everybody to get together, and that’s what we do; we provide that space and hopefully good food.”
Returning customers affirm the work of Williams and her staff. Williams knows repeat business is confirmation they’re doing things right. True success comes from connecting with people you have yet to meet, in addition to your friends and family. The friends made along the way are part of Cahoot’s most significant success.
Williams said, “Several customers come twice a week, every week. And if they don’t come, we’ll call and make sure they’re okay. Our customers become family.”
Cahoot’s history draws customers from near and far.
“We have the tourists, too, because we’re a little unique. We have people that come from out of town; great people that have been coming back for 30 years. That’s what Cahoot’s does. It just brings us all together,” she said.
Customers share their own stories and memories of the building with Williams, some of which begin with, “Don’t you dare tell Mama, but …” As we make new memories, there will be more stories to share and more secrets to keep within the walls.
While “cahoots” often denotes a conspiracy, according to dictionary.com, the word also means “in partnership.” What better word for a building and the people who work within its walls to make Fayetteville safe and satisfied with good food for good times? It’s a conspiracy of community.
A hundred years from now, who knows what other service partnership will exist in the space that has stood watch over the city for more than a century? GN