The Bottle Tree in Headland carries on family legacy of southern hospitality

At a time when other people her age were slowing down, Whitnee’s mother, Mary Jo, was just getting started.
The Bottle Tree has captured the hears and stomachs of the Headland community.
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 4:48 PM CDT
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HEADLAND, Ala. (WTVY) - One restaurant in Headland has captured the hearts and stomachs of the community.

“The Bottle Tree was actually my mother’s restaurant initially, she started this four years ago, she fell in love with the building and fell in love with Headland,” said owner Whitnee Woodham.

At a time when other people her age were slowing down, Whitnee’s mother, Mary Jo, was just getting started. “She decided she didn’t want to sit at home and so she decided to open up a restaurant,” said Whitnee, “which is the exact opposite of sitting at home.”

Mary Jo’s love of cooking for friends and family made a restaurant the perfect business venture, and it wasn’t long until her daughter was able to join her for the journey.

“I moved here just before the pandemic,” said Woodham, “I came home just for a weekend to help, and then everything was shut down and I wound up staying.”

Whitnee and her mom joined forces for two years to provide southern hospitality and home cooking to the community of Headland. The pandemic only proved to be a small bump toward success on the road for The Bottle Tree.

Whitnee said she doesn’t think the restaurant would’ve survived if it wasn’t for the hospitality of the people of Headland. “I mean I know a lot of people came in and didn’t need to and they just didn’t because they didn’t want us to leave and didn’t want us to fold.”

The outpouring of support from the community kept them afloat. In July 2021, however, tragedy struck when the matriarch of The Bottle Tree, Mary Jo, passed away. Whitnee took the restaurant over in her mother’s memory.

“It’s amazing how much we’ve grown since she started it and I look at the number of people we have working here and the number of people we have come in the door now,” she said. “So, it’s fun to see her dream sort of explode- but everything is sort of rooted in her original idea, everyone makes sure they go back to what she originally wanted and thought about.”

Mary Jo’s legacy lives on in the restaurant from the food to the atmosphere and the memories shared over each meal. ”You know she’s very present in here now people come in all the time talking and sharing her story,” said Whitnee, “and everything in this restaurant has something to do with her so it’s not a sad feeling it’s very comforting.”

The Bottle Tree has a new head chef, Jessica Connor, and Woodham says she cooks just like her mother, with a lot of love.

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