Jan. 22—Anyone who has ever visited Zarzour's Cafe on Rossville Avenue has likely had the pleasure of interacting with co-owner/manager/grill master/chief greeter/cash register operator/dispenser of truth and wisdom Shannon Fuller.
She's the one standing at the grill by the door who greets everyone from lawyers and judges to construction workers by name, and she's the one who tallies up your bill — in her head — as you leave. She's also the one who carries on a conversation with everyone in the front room of the 800-square-foot space throughout lunch because she knows everybody in the place.
Shannon is the wife of Joe "Dixie" Fuller. His family has been operating the restaurant off Main Street in the same location and in essentially the same building since 1918 when his great-grandfather Charlie Zarzour bought the deed for the place for $1,000.
Shannon has been working there since 1996 and took over day-to-day operations when her mother-in-law, Shirley, died in 2015. Dixie, who was given the nickname by country music star Teddy Gentry of Alabama fame, worked for the band for many years before spending more than three decades booking bands and heading up production for the annual Riverbend Festival.
Earlier this year, Shannon was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Friends and family will be holding a fete from 4 to 10 p.m. Jan. 29 at Fountainhead Taproom on Rossville Avenue. The event is a birthday bash for Shannon, a concert and an auction being held to raise money and to show support for the well-known and much-loved Fullers.
As small-business owners who rely solely on the restaurant for their income, and without medical insurance, the two are facing mounting medical bills. The Fullers have been involved with fundraising events for other people and animals over the years, and both said the outpouring of love being shown them has been humbling and meaningful.
"I am truly thankful for every single penny, donation and incredible service help," Shannon said. "From the production on the show, to great food being provided by Michelle Wells and Lee Towery to all of the talented musicians sharing their gifts with us and the world. I am so truly humbled by the support and love I receive."
The event on the 29th will feature performances by Chattanooga artists Roger Alan Wade, Amber Carrington and No Big Deal. Merchandise for the auction keeps growing.
"It's going to be neat," Dixie said. "People keep reaching out and making donations, and we have some cool stuff."
Among the items will be a rare electric guitar once given to Alabama and a Taylor acoustic guitar, a signed film cel from Disney's "The Little Mermaid" and several vacation packages. The list of items for auction will be posted on the Shannon Fuller Fundraiser Facebook page next week.
Dixie said the bills are piling up, but people keep offering to help.
One of the items being auctioned off is an autographed copy of "Chattanooga Radio and Television" written by local TV and radio personality David Carroll. Carroll said when he finished the book, he began collecting signatures of many of the well-known people he'd written about. People like Luther Masingill, Tommy Jett, Pat Boone, (Miss) Marcia Kling, Bob Johnson, Darrell Patterson, Don Welch, Cindy Sexton, Earl Freudenberg and many past and present disc jockeys at WFLI such as Johnny Eagle and Tommy Jett.
"Pretty much everyone [who was alive] in the book signed it," Carroll said. "I now have 70 autographs in the book, from the most familiar faces and voices in local broadcasting.
"When I heard that Shannon Fuller needed help with the financial challenges of her cancer battle, I decided that this book might be a way to raise some money for her. I know that someone will cherish this book, and I am honored to make it available to help Shannon and Dixie."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.