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2017-07-13

Hot rods, hot sandwiches and warm hearts

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

Denny and Cliff Jenkins moved to Bandera from Florida nine years ago. Owning a sandwich shop named after a Harley Davidson motorcycle and hosting classic car aficionados’ get-togethers wasn’t why they came here. Such a thought hadn’t even crossed their minds.
“We were both in the construction business in Florida,” Denny said. “When the market crashed, we had to do something.”
Cliff’s brother had moved to Texas several years, previously, so Cliff, was at least, familiar with the Bandera community. After a bit of discussion, Cliff and Denny made the decision to leave the familiarity of their home in Florida and take a chance on life in Bandera.
“I’m so glad we were able to raise our kids here,” Denny said. “It’s a modern day Mayberry.”
Denny managed Fatboyz Sandwich Shop for six years before leaving it to work elsewhere for the past three years. When she was manager of Fatboyz, she used to bring her daughters to work with her.
“My daughters practically grew up in the shop,” Denny said.
Cassie and Cheyanne learned and mastered hospitality skills by waiting tables, answering phones and generally helping out their mom. Denny even shared her tips with her daughters.
Cassie is now helping out her parents in the sandwich shop again, stepping in like an old pro — at least for the time being.
Tragically, Cheyanne became ill with an extremely aggressive type of AML Leukemia and passed away at the end of last year. The shock and rawness of this family loss almost kept the Jenkins from purchasing the sandwich shop when it became available. But in May, with the support and encouragement of their family and friends, they did buy the sandwich shop.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Denny said. “We are extremely blessed by the love and support of the town.”
Cassie, who is a trained bartender (and looking for a bartending job), is enthusiastic about pursuing a career in forensic science. But for now, she says she is happy helping her mom and dad with the new business.
“This restaurant feels like home to me,” Cassie said. “My regulars are my family.”
According to Denny, most things about the popular restaurant have not changed. The interior ambiance is the same as before, with the menu neatly scrawled on blackboards. The menu includes a terrific assortment of sandwiches, salads and weekly specials.
“We use only the highest quality ingredients,” Denny said, “so we made minor tweaks to the prices. … We also offer a ‘Bulldog Special’ for all Bandera ISD staff, faculty, students and first responders.” The Bulldog Special is a cheeseburger, chips and a drink for $7.”
They also still serve what’s practically become a Fatboyz signature dish: The Jap/cream burger made with jalapenos and cream cheese.
“I’ve had people call us up on their way here from Houston to ask if we have it,” Denny said. “Locals just know to ask for it, whether it’s on the menu or not.”
Historic photographs and maps, cattle horns and a long two-person tree saw adorn the walls. As do motorcycle-related décor, homage to the Harley Fat Boy, which was the previous owner’s ride of choice. Some of the photos that used to be on the walls have been removed for easy cleaning of all surfaces.
The restroom and, truly, the entire restaurant are squeaky clean, which is always a welcome sign for diners who care about their health — and for the rest of us as well.
And there’s another thing that hasn’t changed: The first Friday of every month car enthusiasts gather in the parking lot with a great assortment of cars and share the live version of Click and Clack Car Talk as only true car people can. Last Friday about 30 cars were displayed in the parking lot while dozens of people peered under hoods, talked car-shop-talk and listened to Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Great Balls of Fire!
“The Classic Car Club has been meeting the first Friday of the month in the Fatboyz Sandwich Shop parking lot for five or six years,” Denny said. “I’ve seen all sorts of things in that parking lot, from a horseless carriage to a jet boat, a tricked out tow truck. … It doesn’t matter what stage of restoration you’re in — the people who come to this are interested in the process.”
“And they like to brag!” Cassie Jenkins said with a smile.