Lizard’s Thicket Restaurant, a Midlands institution, turned 45 in 2022. Anna and Bob Williams opened their first restaurant in 1977, in an old house on Broad River Road. The forward thinking couple imagined a Southern cooking based eating establishment that offered a place for regular folks to visit that didn’t necessarily involve a special occasion and was available for all meals.
Community relations advisor Sara Rentz Krisnow, a third generation family member in the family run business, says her grandparents figured with women entering the workforce in the ’70s, there would be a need for a replacement family meal a few times each week for busy working parents, and the variety of country cooking offered a large selection of vegetables and enough different meats to keep people from having to eat the same thing over and over.
Like most inquisitive folks, this reporter was curious about the name Lizard’s Thicket. Like so many curious things in the South, the state of Alabama was partly responsible.
The Northwest town of Hamilton, Alabama once featured a brown bag establishment called Marty’s Lizard’s Thicket that was occasionally frequented by the Williams family, who lived down in Birmingham. The establishment was on Bee Mountain and featured really good food, a usually packed house, and brown bagging for those who preferred something stronger than sweet tea to drink. But the name stuck with Bob Williams.
In the 1970s, securing a phone number was an initial step for most new business owners. When placing their phone installation order under the name Anna’s Country Kitchen, Bob and Anna discovered that name already had a phone number.
Bob countered with the name Lizard’s Thicket. The ATT rep questioned the financial wisdom of such a name, but Bob was firm. “One way or another they’ll be talking about us,” he replied.
After 45 years, growing to 13 locations and over 600 employees, Lizard’s Thicket seems now like a no-brainer. According to Krisnow, “The focus on everyday food and our consistency, both with our recipes and our service, has been the main reason for our success.”
Lizard’s Thicket is adding t-shirts and souvenir coffee mugs commemorating the upcoming anniversary to the already impressive list of Lizard’s Thicket accessories. The t-shirts go for 20 bucks and the coffee mugs are ten—best value on a historical artifact in the Midlands. In addition, revenue from the commemorative mugs will be shared with three local, family based charities: Epworth Children’s Home, Camp Cole, and The Cooperative Ministry.
Krisnow added, “We 100 percent knew we were going to partner with somebody because the community has been so good to us.”
Epworth Children’s Home has been operating since 1896, providing loving and nurturing care to children coming from severely stressed family systems. Its aim is to break the destructive cycle of abuse, neglect, and shame and replace it with an opportunity for each child to live a life of self-respect, responsibility, and productivity.
Camp Cole is named for Cole Sawyer, who lost his battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 11. Cole’s mom, Stacy, was so impressed with the work of a local camp for cancer patients during Cole’s courageous battle she vowed to open something available to any child with a severe illness. During the planning stages of Camp Cole, Stacy also tragically passed away. Today, Camp Cole continues with Stacy’s vision, offering 40 acres of support in Eastover.
In 1982, The Cooperative Ministry was founded by five churches (First Presbyterian Church, Main Street Methodist, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Washington Street United Methodist Church, and First Baptist Church) in downtown Columbia. The goal was to establish a collaborative method of assisting those in need while preventing the duplication of services.
The Cooperative Ministry is currently supported by 53 faith partners in addition to corporations, family foundations, community organizations, government agencies, small businesses, and thousands of individuals. Of all expenses, 90 percent go to support client services, and volunteers comprise 34 percent of the workforce, serving thousands of hours at its building on West Beltline Boulevard.
So don’t forget the merchandise next time you visit Lizard’s Thicket. The mug purchase includes a cup of coffee.
For more information on Lizard’s Thicket, the commemorative mugs, or the charities involved, visit www.lizardsthicket.com.