Earline "Dab" Appling, a Fort Valley State College alumna and owner of Dab's Cafe located in the Macon Airport, shows off one of her signature meals.
A southern home cooked meal may be high on a food lover’s list. Knowing where to find one could be a task similar to a treasure hunt, but Macon, Georgia residents don’t have that problem thanks to Dab’s Café.
Earline “Dab” (Wallace) Appling is the owner of Dab’s Café. Appling is a 1978 graduate of Fort Valley State College who majored in home economics with a concentration in food and nutrition. The 61-year-old opened her restaurant called Dab’s in 1993 at age 35 after a 22-year career with the restaurant chain Hardees.
Nestled in the corner of the city’s airport, Dab’s serves as a spot for local residents to eat lunch and passengers leaving and arriving in Macon a chance to experience southern cuisine. Appling moved the café from its original location on Rocky Creek Road in south Macon to the airport to save on her bottom line, but the quality of her food did not suffer.
“Everything is popular on our menu because I tell people that Dab’s is no different than anybody else that cooks or has a business,” Appling said. “The only different thing we do with our recipes is that L-O-V-E is one of our ingredients. I truly love what I do.”
Before boarding their flight, Birdie Faulkner and her grandson Davin, enjoyed a meal prepared by Dab’s staff. It was Faulkner’s first time eating at the establishment, and she was thoroughly impressed. The grandmother and Jones County resident said the food was delicious and she received excellent service.
It’s no surprise that Appling’s eating establishment has a knack for preparing tasty meals. Appling’s career in the restaurant business spans more than 40 years. She started her cooking career in the 11th-grade at Hardees in her hometown of Cordele.
“As a young child, I always wanted to own my own business. I was interested in home economics and food and I always loved cooking,” Appling said.
The café owner said her high school home economics teacher influenced her to seek a career in food and nutrition. “She explained to me that by majoring in food and nutrition, you will have options. You could either be a home economics instructor, work in a hospital, be a dietician or be in the restaurant industry,” Appling said.
She decided to enroll at Fort Valley State in 1974, and transferred her duties to the local Hardees restaurant where she continued to work through college. Appling said the transition was easy because she already had an older sibling (Evalene Wallace) attending the institution. “It was more affordable for my mother for both of us to be in the same location,” Appling said.
As a student, Appling didn’t have time for many social activities because of financial obligations. “My mother couldn’t afford for me to go to school and stay longer than four years. I had to work in order to help my mother make ends meet to stay in school,” Appling said. In addition, she also had a job on campus in the education department.
Appling’s advisor at FVSU was former FVSU instructor Sharon Hunt, who would sit down and talk to her frequently. “She was not only an advisor, she was an ADVISOR,” Appling said louder, stressing Hunt’s importance as a teacher. “She never lowered herself to where you would not respect her. I could tell her anything and everything about me and still had the utmost respect for her. She was the type of person a student needed to sit down and talk with about different classes and things in their lives in order to make them succeed. She kept me on the right track,” Appling said.
Before graduating from FVSU, Appling was promoted from a crew position to management in the Hardee’s system, but she turned it down. “The reason I was at Fort Valley was to get a degree. I would not accept going into management prior to graduation,” Appling said.
After earning her degree, Appling spent more than 22 years advancing in the Hardees franchise. She eventually earned a promotion to Hardee’s corporate headquarters in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. There, she supervised a test kitchen as a training manager where products are sampled and must pass specific standards before being offered on the menu. One of the products successfully exiting the test facility are Hardees famed biscuits.
“When Hardee’s rolled out that biscuit, I was the manager that tested it in the kitchen,” Appling said.
She eventually advanced to the position of franchise service consultant, overseeing 28 franchises in the middle Georgia area before retiring.
“When you open a business, you have to know your business,” Appling said in discussing how to be a successful entrepreneur. She gave examples of how she would have to train managers and prospective franchise owners about the basics of running a food establishment, which included everything from preparing food to managing the cash register. She said such training is vital because if the crew is shorthanded, someone, including the manager or owner, has to step in to keep the operation running.
Appling is married to Adrian Appling, a 1978 FVSC plant and soil science graduate. Their daughter (Tiffany) also graduated from FVSU in 2009 with a degree in computer information systems.