Mrs. Grissom opened what is probably Piedmont’s most popular eating establishment, the Dari King, in 1961. Grissom was 5 at the time. As he got older he worked alongside his mother.
“I was raised there,” he said. “We called 90 percent of the people who came in by their first name. We knew them all - their mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters. Our family didn’t view it as a job. It was an opportunity to be a part of people’s lives. We weren’t going to work. We were living our lives. It just so happened we owned a restaurant. Our business motto was ‘Our family serving yours since 1961.’ ”
Grissom and his wife, Julia, alongside his brother, Dennis ran the Dari King until 2006. Grissom said the person he is today is a result of characteristics displayed by his mother on a daily basis. Mrs. Grissom was viewed as a friend and a second-mom to a generation of teenagers who called the Dari King home.
Mrs. Grissom died in 1990 and Grissom’s father, Floyd, died in 1985.
Being able to connect with people is the biggest thing Grissom misses about the Dari King.
“I miss the people to this day,” he said. “Life lessons were being taught every day. Our time there was special.”
As much as Grissom enjoyed his time in the restaurant business, health issues took their toll and led him to his current job. In September 2011, he was hired as the government procurement specialist in the Small Business Development Center at Jacksonville State University.
“This job is a dream come true for me,” he said. “JSU has been a huge part of my life since 1974, and I’m so thankful to be able to contribute to the outreach and mission of the university. I have a great job that allows me to help others.
Grissom said if someone hopes to sell their goods or services to the government, he is able to assist them with the process.
“We help our clients through the registration process that is required to sell to the government, provide counseling services, and start-up assistance,“ he said. “In addition, we counsel our clients on the benefit of crafting a business plan and a financial plan.”
Grissom said his department will host a MatchMaker on Nov. 7. Contracting officers from Marshall Space Flight Center, Boeing, Anniston Army Depot, NASA, BAE, Alabama Department of Transportation, and others will attend. This presents his clients with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the contracting officers looking to purchase their goods and services.
Grissom was selected by the Alabama Small Business Development Center as this year’s Alabama State Star. State Stars are exemplary performers who have made significant contributions to their state programs and have demonstrated a strong commitment to small business.
He was recognized at the annual conference of America’s Small Business Development Center Network in Orlando, Fla., in September.
Grissom was nominated for the award by his supervisor, Robbie Medders who, 10 years ago, received the award herself.
Medders said that Grissom is an outstanding business counselor and is committed to quality assistance in serving clients.
“He approaches his work with a positive attitude toward goal achievement and completing assignments,” she said. “This recognition is a distinguished honor for Grissom and the JSU Small Business Development Center.”
“The SBDC State Star Award has a long tradition in our industry as the top award for recognizing an individual’s outstanding performance and contribution to our mission of furthering small business success and job creation in Alabama,” said Bill Cummins, executive state director of the Alabama SBDC Network. “Before joining the SBDC center at JSU, Ken ran his own small business and has leveraged that real world experience to become a highly effective counselor and coach to small business. He is most deserving.”
Grissom was born and grew up in Piedmont. He received an accounting degree from JSU in 1979. He is currently working on his MBA, which he says will enable him to become a better counselor.
Grissom and his wife of 30 years, the former Julia Davis, value family time. Julia works at R&R Travel in Oxford. They have two sons.
Dylan and his wife Kati live in Nashville, where Dylan works for the Corp of Engineers. Austyn is a senior at Auburn, where he’s majoring in biomedical sciences. Grissom said both sons have always excelled academically. Austyn has recently been informed that he received one of two prestigious scholarships awarded to Auburn seniors by the College of Science and Mathematics.
“Traveling has always been a big part of our life as a family,” said Grissom. “We’ve taught our sons to appreciate the value of travel, and it’s a characteristic they have embraced.”
Grissom is on the deacon board of First Baptist Church. He’s a lifelong supporter of Piedmont athletics, Jacksonville State athletics, and is a charter member of the board of directors for the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.
Many different personalities walked through the doors of the Dari King during its 45 years. These men and women, many of whom are older now, left a mark on Grissom.
“Older people in Piedmont have always held a special place in my heart,” he said. “I love listening to their stories and learning from our elders.”
He fondly recalls how Joe Faulkner, Lamar Camp and Bud Kirk shared their memories of days gone by.
He also enjoys stories told to him through the years, many by residents who are now deceased. One such person was the late Imogene Wallace, wife of Dr. E. D. Wallace.
She related to Grissom how she had seen an item in a magazine about Piedmont. She was young, had a teaching degree and decided to move here from her home in Oklahoma. Shortly after she arrived by train, she met Dr. Wallace. They became engaged.
In 1931, Dr. Wallace, and three other men drove to see Alabama play the Washington State Cougars in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. On their way, they stopped in Oklahoma for Dr. Wallace to ask Mrs. Wallace’s parents for her hand in marriage.
Grissom videoed Mrs. Wallace as she told the story.
Grissom has taken photographs most of his life. He likes to collect old photographs and share them.
“Every picture has a story to tell,” he said.
He’s proud of his large collection of photos of Piedmont’s citizens. Most of them were taken at the Dari King. One photo that has eluded Grissom is an exterior picture of the Dari King at 704 E. Ladiga St. He asks that anyone with photos of the Dari King from 1961 through 1983 please contact him.
“The old black and whites that I post on Facebook are a result of Frank Watson teaching me darkroom techniques,” he said. “These photos were the homework assignments. Frank Watson was not only teaching me darkroom techniques, but also about the history of our town.”
Grissom calls Watson, Doug Borden and the late Paul Savage his mentors and credits them for his knowledge of photography.
Contact Margaret at email@example.com.