Once done with their meal, diners can put whatever money they can — or not a single cent — in the donation box and no one, not even the McMillans, will know how much it was.
Drexell & Honeybee's in Brewton, Alabama, doesn't believe in setting fixed (or suggested) prices for the items on their ever-changing menu. Instead of a checkout register, the quaint little restaurant run by the retiree couple, Freddie and Lisa Thomas-McMillan, keeps a donation box inside a private booth near its entrance. Once done with their meal, diners can put whatever money they can — or not a single cent — in the box and no one, not even the McMillans, will know how much it was. Why? Because that's the rule at Drexell & Honeybee's: "Everybody eats."
According to The Bitter Southerner, Drexell & Honeybee's opened in a red brick building on the edge of downtown Brewton, about 10 miles north of the Florida state line, in March 2018. From Tuesday through Thursday, 11 am – 1 pm, the donations-only restaurant serves up hot plates of wholesome Southern soul food to hungry on-comers from all walks of life, irrespective of whether the diner can pay for it or not. "I have found out... a lot of elderly people are coming hungry because a lot of them can’t pay for their medicine and buy food. Food stamps are not adequate," Lisa told The Washington Post.
Drexell & Honeybee's is the brick and mortar manifestation of Lisa's big heart. Helping the needy and showing compassion to her fellow beings has been a lifelong mission for her. Over the years, she has run a food bank, opened her home to those in need of a roof over their heads, and used every penny she could spare to help those less fortunate than her. Speaking to Good News Network, Lisa explained that it may have started in second grade when a little girl, who always had a better sandwich than her, never hesitated to happily share it with her in return for some of her peanut butter and jelly.
"'Feed the Need' is our mission statement," said Lisa "Whatever needs people have, if we can help them... we will." As for how she and her husband came to open the restaurant, Lisa recounted an experience from 2016 when she was serving lunches (which were free for those who could not afford to buy meals) at a local community college. One day, three older people came in and were digging through their purses for change. She realized that they were hungry but could barely afford to pay. "I couldn’t take that [money], because I knew it had to be their last," she said.
So, she said she told them: "Can you help us out? We need to give away at least 10 free meals." The story did the trick and the experience inspired her to open the restaurant she had been thinking about for a few years. As she had hoped, many of Drexell & Honeybee’s customers today are elderly and in need of hot meals without judgment or shame for their financial problems. Lisa doesn’t question or even wonder why anyone might be at points in their lives where they need establishments likes hers.
"Sometimes, somebody I know will snitch, telling me, 'Lisa, you know who was in here, ate up a whole bunch, and didn't put a dime in the box?' I say, 'No, and I don't want to.' Do you know how crazy I'd go if I tried to keep tabs on that? That's not what this is about," she said. "You could drop $1,000 in there, and I would not know. You could drop a quarter in there, and I would not know. And there's a chance you could give so much more than that quarter, but there's also the chance that a quarter is everything you had left."
Although the pandemic has made running the restaurant much more challenging than usual, it hasn't stopped Lisa and Freddie from doing what they love. "The end of June we figured out a way to do to-go orders and keep everyone safe... It is working out very well and we feel so proud to be able to do what we do, with COVID-19 affecting so many people," she explained. "When my husband and I opened, we agreed to put a portion of our retirement back into the running of the restaurant... as you can imagine donations are down, but we will continue to try and be of service to all the people that come to our door."