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If you had told Jeff Voyles five years ago that he would one day run a family restaurant, he probably would have thought you were crazy. Voyles left an 18-year career as an investment broker to take the helm of Burge's Hickory Smoked Turkeys and Hams just over a year ago.
"Jack Burge was a client of mine and I had been sending his hams and turkeys to all my clients for years," Voyles says. "It came up in conversation about three or four years ago. He asked if I'd be interested in buying this place from him. My first response was, 'I can't do that. I can't walk away from an 18-year brokerage career, can I?'"
But walk away he did and Voyles has found the food service business to be a fulfilling one. The menu didn't change much with the ownership and Voyles's philosophy has always been, "stick with the basics."
"The menu is probably one of the largest menus in town in terms of what you can choose from - fish, barbecue, burgers, sandwiches. My goal was not to come in and change the menu, but to keep what's working well. If it's not broke, don't fix it," he says.
The restaurant is gearing up for its busiest time of year: the holidays. Aside from the normal restaurant crowd, Voyles and the crew at both Burge's locations (the original is located in Lewisville, Arkansas) will ship out over 20,000 packages – stuffed with smoked hams and turkeys – during a seven week period.
Although Burge's has remained successful under his ownership, Voyles is quick to credit his staff and loyal customers.
"Our success is due to a combination of long-time dedicated employees at the Heights restaurant – the average tenure is approximately 12 years, with some as long as 30 years – and the continued patronage of loyal customers, many who eat here four and five times a week. We know most of our customers on a first name basis, and know what they are likely going to order as they come in the door."
"Jack Burge has been a great source of support and advice through the transition," he says. "He still cares deeply about the legacy of this business. Perhaps the greatest compliment he has given me is that I'm running this 'just like his daddy did.' "