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Sam and Andy’s remains family business

The Captain family remains the masters of their own destiny. They have maintained control of a family business that started as a landmark near The University of Tennessee.

The Captains are owners and operators of Sam and Andy’s restaurants in Farragut and Fountain City.

Lucille and George Captain and their six children are the owners and operators of the business, which started in 1946 at 1801 Cumberland Ave. in Knoxville.

“It was started by my husband’s uncles, Sam and Andy Captain,” Lucille said. “They were Greek immigrants and enjoyed cooking.”

Lucille, who started working for the brothers in 1954, said prior to opening The Tennesseean Diner, as it was called back then, the brothers worked on the railroad and owned a shop on Gay Street where they cleaned and blocked hats for customers. It was fashionable for men to wear hats back then, she said.

“They just liked to cooked,” Lucille, 71, said of Sam and Andy. “Back then we didn’t even have a key to the door. We stayed open twenty-four hours a day.”

The cuisine included the Vol burger, a tradition that continues in current Sam and Andy’s restaurants, dinner plates and other dishes.

“It was more of a sit-down restaurant,” she said. “We had waiters and waitresses back then. The restaurant had steaks and seafood.”

Lucille said the restaurant served as the gathering place for many of the UT students, who didn’t have many options for places to eat back then.

“When it first opened, it was like a streetcar,” she said. “Then they added a dining room and another dining room. Then they added the Roman Room, where we served beer.”

Lucille said the good food they served has been one attraction to the business, but when they first started Andy Captain was one of the big attractions.

“Andy was a people person,” she said. “He loved everybody. If the students came in and didn’t have the money to pay, Andy would tell them they could pay him later.”

She said sometimes students would come back months and years later to repay their debt to Andy.

The business became a centerpiece for the energetic and lively fraternities, she said, especially during the decades when streaking was a popular college prank.

“We had an orange and white cow on top of the building about the size of the Mayfield dairy cow,” she said. “The students would get naked and want to ride the cow.”

The Tennesseean Diner was also the sight of some not-so-amusing antics during the time of desegregation. Lucille said sometimes Knoxville police would come in and remove “colored” students for the restaurants and other restaurants since they were designated for whites only.

Business did so well the restaurant company expanded into Farragut in 1987. Lucille and her son, John, moved to Farragut to open the store.

“My husband stayed at the one on Cumberland until it closed in nineteen ninety-seven,” she said.

Competition and a tripling of the rent by the landlord of the property near UT made it difficult for the business to make a profit, so they sought their fortune in other areas.

George, 68, works at the Farragut location, where Lucille said he makes the sauces for certain dishes as well as taking care of other tasks. His day starts at 3 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. He then drives down to Cherokee Boulevard in Knoxville and runs five miles before returning home.

Chris, another son, runs the Fountain City location. It opened in 2000, she said.


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