Over 60 years ago in the small community of Mason, Tennessee, Napoleon “Na” Vanderbilt created something amazing – fried chicken that could unite a community. In an era of divisive racial attitudes the residents of Mason found that they could all – black and white – agree on how much they loved Na’s fried chicken.
Such an amazing feat did not occur overnight. After experimenting for several years in a local tavern, Na and his wife, Ms. Maggie, began selling their chicken, sandwiched between two slices of white bread, out of the back door of the tavern. As demand grew, Na and Maggie were encouraged by local residents to build a freestanding restaurant. Unfortunately, the Vanderbilt’s were of modest means and could not afford such an expansion; however, generous, chicken loving locals offered to supply them with the materials necessary to build their own restaurant. Na, a skilled carpenter, built the restaurant on a piece of land he and Ms. Maggie owned on Highway 70 in Mason. Maggie’s Short Orders opened its doors in 1973. The building still stands today and still serves Na and Maggie’s amazing fried chicken.
Maggie and Na continued to serve their community until their deaths, in 1982 and 1983 respectively. The restaurant, however, remained a family affair. Na’s only son, Vernon “Gus” Bonner, inherited Maggie and Na’s priceless recipe and the restaurant they worked so hard to build, literally from the ground up. In 1984, Gus and his wife, Gertrude, reopened under the now well-known name, “Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Fried Chicken.” Though the name may have changed, the Bonner family continued to honor Na and Ms. Maggie’s legacy by following and even perfecting their beloved fried chicken.