Using inspiration from his grandmother, Mark Rudd hosted what he hopes is the first annual free Thanksgiving meal on Thanksgiving in Mr. Rudd’s Barbershop, 110 Columbus St.
“I’m inspired by my grandmother who was a Baptist woman from the South,” Rudd said. “And she always instilled in me, ‘always give back to your people’ and that’s kind of what I’ve always done. No matter how big it was or how small, I could do it.”
Rudd recalls seeing his grandmother offer baths to those who needed them.
“I remember sitting in the living room watching her invite people off the street who were in bad positions to come in and take a bath. She would get clothes from the Salvation Army and she would wash them, regroup those perople, give them a meal and send them on their way,” Rudd said. “That’s kind of the origin, where we are and what I’m trying to do. No matter where I’ve gone, I always want to make sure I stay connected to the people because without the people, we don’t have business. I’m just grateful.”
Collard greens and mac and cheese side dishes were present along with the eight turkeys (including four that were smoked turkeys) and five hams, some of which were donated. Pies, cranberries, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole were also available in the buffet.
Diners could sit at tables or in Mr. Rudd’s comfortable barber chairs and take in the Lions-Bears game projected onto a large screen and on one of several flat screen TVs (the pool table wasn’t available because it doubled as a serving table for plastic ware, plates and napkins).
“You know, we’ll just cook it and if people come, they show up, you show up. So, you know, so I’ve gotten a lot of support from these people — all our customers. These are all people in the community that come in. The fire department — I tried to get them here, they’re kind of doing their own thing over there [at Fire Station 1, across Cory Barr Street from the shop]. But they did help me and gave me a place to cook food. So it’s been a really, it’s been a joint effort trying to achieve it.”
Rudd said because he’s been embraced in his business — first at his Main Street location, then on Columbus Street, just across the street from his former location at the corner of Columbus and Main — that he wanted to give back.
“The premise of this whole thing is because this community has embraced me amazingly — more than I ever anticipated,” Rudd said. “So with me being the person I am, with the family that I have, I wanted to make sure that I found the opportunity to give something back to the same community, especially with the whole explosion thing. I just felt it was my time.
“I was in a good position to be able to do something like this,” Rudd said.
The new location afforded more room to be able to host a dinner.
“With all this room I had, it was ideal for me to be able to change it the way that I wanted to change it and what we could do. And just listening to the customers I think is the biggest push,” Rudd said. “And then we heard the VFW wasn’t doing theirs any more, so maybe I can pick up the ball . . . and move this along.”
Rudd said his approach to the meal was “just keep it simple, take care of people, love on people that they’ve loved on me. I can’t do everybody at one time.”
Rudd received many donations to help him.
“We had people donate a lot of stuff. We had Costco, we had the Pine Cone restaurant, we had the Om Asian market . . . and people just came in. When the message first went out, people were calling me going, ‘what can I do? What can I do?’ We had a lady come in and donate a huge check. I’m just like, ‘whoa.’ So my goal is to hopefully get this going annually,” Rudd said. “That’s my goal.”
Rudd had about 65 people walk through his door as of 2 p.m., but he hopes to build on the first annual event.
“Like I say, I hope that we can make this an annual thing. I hope it gets to the point where I have to move out of here and do it somewhere else. That’s what I would really hope to do,” Rudd said. “I think that would be amazing.”