The End of An Era — Wave Goodbye to Tommy's Ham House
Furman tearily says goodbye to one of its most favorite establishments.
Frying chicken no more — Tommy hangs up his apron once and for all.
Painting by local artist John Daso
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Can one really consider themselves a Furman student if they’ve never been to Tommy’s Country Ham House? Crossing the threshold of this cherished diner could be likened to a rite of passage for freshman newcomers — well, could have been. Tommy Stevenson, owner and figurehead of the Ham House, recently announced his decision to close the restaurant after a glorious 36 years in business — years in which the Furman community has played a pivotal role.
Stevenson himself is a Furman graduate, and his support for the university was unwavering throughout his time at the restaurant. Smack-dab on the front of the website’s home page is a large emblem that reads “We are Proud Supporters of Furman Athletics.” The walls of the restaurant are lined with university paraphernalia, and it's a tradition for the football team to eat there before almost every game.
However, the Ham House-Furman love affair didn’t stop and end with athletics. My freshman year POP trip scheduled a hearty breakfast for all those on the trip to enjoy before embarking on their various excursions, thereby imprinting on a larger majority of the incoming class the special spot Tommy’s holds within Furman hearts. Outside of organized events, students are continual frequenters of the establishment throughout the year. Sophomore Mark Calvin spoke about the Tommy’s in the following terms:
“To me, Ham House was the perfect stereotypical college diner. I could walk in, order the same thing each time, often get charged a different amount for it, and still would love every second of it. When I was there, I was with friends. It was an opportunity to start my day with some good food, in a place where Furman was the main event, with the people I cared about the most - I’ll miss Ham House.”
Beyond the Furman community, the Ham House is well-known amongst Greenville residents and celebrities alike. Want to know who has visited the restaurant before you? Simply glance up at the walls, and next to loud-and-proud Furman posters one could see photos of presidents, politicians, local stars and more — extra points for anyone who can spot former Presidents George Bush or Donald Trump.
Yet none of this fanfare would have been possible without the mouth-watering, homestyle fare Stevenson used to attract customers. Classic and simple, Tommy’s biscuits are and sadly soon “were,” the best biscuit in town. The eggs were fluffy and satisfying, the chicken fired to perfection, and the grits a taste of the south in one spoonful. Sure, the menu was no frills, but they did standard well — heck they did it amazingly. Between plastic tablecloths and individual jelly packets, Tommy’s was frozen in time in a perfectly simplistic and loveable way.
Though remembering fondly his 36 years in business, continual 4 am wakeup calls, beginning in 1985 with his acquisition of the restaurant, sure do take their toll on a man. Stevenson (80 years old) is looking forward to a retirement filled with family time, Furman sporting events, and many, many biscuits. The Ham Houses’ doors will close May 30, so be sure to make one more stop by the establishment that is known as much for its breakfast fare as it is for its contribution to Greater-Greenville's history.