1933-1996

Norman Lambert was born to Earl & Agnes Lambert on November 18, 1933. He grew up around a working class environment, watching his mother and father take 12-hour shifts to keep a small cafe open 24 hours a day. He taught P.E. and coached football for Sikeston up until 1976.

The death of his father, Earl Lambert, left his mother to run a cafe on her own … she actually sold it for one week before Norman bought it back and took it over with her. At first he was scared and shy … but with the help of his oldest son, Todd … his personality became very outgoing.

Norman began passing around pies and rolls, cutting jokes, and doing magic tricks for customers! They loved it and his business grew.

The cafe held barely 50 people, but would have 150 in line. On a busy, crowded day, Norman was passing around extra rolls when he couldn’t get to a customer in the corner. The man said throw the #@$#@ thing, and he did and the legend grew.

Norman catered to all people, no matter who they were, he treated them all the same. He made a policy of people in wheelchairs, he called it “if you bring your own chair … you eat free”, and he held to that. He picked up stacks and stacks of meals, gave away free Christmas dinners, and delivered sausage and biscuit breakfasts!

He expanded from a 50 people cafe to 125, just down the road … business grew.

On January 29th, 1984 his oldest son, Todd, who was gifted with a kind and outgoing personality and art of balloon making, died in an automobile accident. It was a serious blow to Norman and his family … but he carried on.

Lambert’s once again moved down the road to a cafe that would hold 300 people. Business grew, but Norman never changed.

In March of 1994 he opened a cafe in Ozark, Missouri which is doing great also. In June of 1996 the Lambert’s opened in Foley, Alabama. Only without Norman this time.

We’ll remember Norman for his heart! He treated everyone great … like family … he was the best at what he did … just being a “good human being”. He always followed the Golden Rule – “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You”.

He is gone, but not forgotten… his spirit is still with each one of his employees, family members and friends, who will carry on the tradition that he started.

Patti, Norman & Agnes Lambert
Norm Throwing A Roll

Missouri Restaurant Association Lifetime Achievement Award Video

“Norman Ray”

It all started in ’33 – born to hard workers
he would soon see
life is tuff, life is hard, you had to play to win
or face the fall.
He had to battle against all of the odds
short and small, just like us all.
He played football with all of his heart
taking every blow that was dealt to him like a
hand of cards.
He would go on in the struggle everyday
selling meat, packing groceries to pay his way.
He met his neighbor across the road
their paths collided and a family would grow.
He had a struggle ahead once again
with a family to feed, he had to succeed.
Over the tallest wall of all,
would he survive or would he fall?
In ’76 his world came tumbling down,
the death of pop, his father, a true man.
So once again he was all alone
stuck to run a small cafe on his own.
He stood proud, he stood tall
Well, after all the struggling and the pain
came a miracle some might say
with the “Throw of a Roll” across the small cafe,
the rest is history I guess you could say.
I’m proud of you my father, Norman Ray!

Ben Lambert, 2-25-95

Dedication from Jerry

Many of my fellow employees will write of their excellent experiences with Norman on the floor of the dining room, and all the things he did for our many customers. I’d like to talk about some things behind the wall. Behind the dining room wall Norman Lambert went well beyond an employer. It always amazed me how a man could give 110 percent to his business and still find time to be there for his employees. Norman was a father figure to all of us. It went much deeper than words can say.

The hundreds of calls made over the years to school teachers, principals, parole officers, loan officers, lawyers, judges, sheriffs, and police officers. These calls were never for himself but for the people he cared about. Norman wanted everyone to have a decent life. Anytime you employ 120 people, 99.9% of the people are going to have their share of problems, and Norman was always there. He had an amazing way of finding the good in everyone. When sometimes society would give up on someone, Norman would pick through all the bad, find the good inside and set them on their feet again. Whatever the problem he would never get mad or give up on the person. He would try to figure out what caused the problem and go from there.

In the past months I’ve read several restaurant articles regarding the new generation of restaurant workers for the next 20 years which are age 16-30. The main topic of the articles were how to deal with this younger work force. Many books have been written in the last two years on the same topic. The same things these people are saying today, Norman was practicing twenty years ago.

Norman was many years ahead of his time in every respect, but most of all the way he handled young people. He could get on their level, talk to them, listen to them, make them understand the importance of working hard, not just for him but for themselves so that one day they could achieve personal success.

Norman’s honest straight forward approach to anything was second to none. He was against the grain. He liked simplicity on every level. He could make things simple and still accomplish twice as much. “Cut out all the ‘xoxo’ and give me the bottom line.”

One time a few years back a young man named Joe Denny worked here for three years. He was moving to Effingham, IL and asked Norman for a letter of recommendation to go in with his application to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Norman agreed and the letter read:

To Whom It May Concern:
Joe Denny, Damn Good!
Norman Lambert

It just doesn’t get any simpler than that.

There will never be enough ink or paper in the world to describe this wonderful man.

Thank you Norman for being my friend. Words can’t describe how much you meant to me. you never gave up on me through good time and bad. You played many roles in my life. None of which will ever be forgotten. I believe in you with all my heart and hung on to your every word. You made me understand this crazy world we live in. Some times its tuff facing what tomorrow might bring without someone like you behind me, but I’ll never forget anything you told me, so I think I’ll be alright.

I’ll see you again some day my friend!

Jerry Johnson