Obituary: Grocer's life touched entire community
Glenn Huff loved people, sports and his God
By SUSAN LEATHERS
Brentwood Home Page
In August of 1949, Glenn Huff was hauling bricks on a flat-bed truck to be used in the construction of Liberty School. He stopped in a small grocery on what was then Wilson Pike in Brentwood for a soda. The owner told Huff he was tired of the grocery business and wanted to sell it.
“He and his brother went back the next day and bought it,” Huff’s son Mike Huff said late last week following his father’s death on April 21.
Glenn Huff stayed in the grocery business in Brentwood until he retired in 1987, though his son and then business partner Mike continued running Huff’s Grocery until 1993, when it was sold.
During the almost 40 years he helped feed the community he loved, Glenn Huff’s store was almost as much a community gathering place as it was a business.
Glenn Huff’s life will be celebrated Tuesday at 1 p.m. when a funeral service will be held at Otter Creek Church of Christ. Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today at Williamson Memorial Funeral Home and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the church, 409 Franklin Road, Brentwood, prior to the service. Interment will follow at Williamson Memorial Gardens.
Huff’s Grocery wasn’t Mr. Huff’s first experience with the grocery business. His father owned Burwood Market in the Burwood community located in rural southeast Williamson County where he was raised with his seven siblings. His brother Ken still owns it.
|Glenn Huff in his first store, located where Inside Out furniture is today.|
A 'color blind' businessman
Everyone asked to share a memory of Glenn Huff mentioned his kindness and generosity.
“His biggest legacy is by far his kindness,” Mike Huff said. “The number of people touched is really inexplicable. There are people who have houses who would not have them if it wasn’t for my dad.”
Mike’s younger brother Terry recalled delivering groceries to customers who were poor or handicapped. “Everyone could have a charge account,” he said.
“Occasionally someone would come in and say they didn’t have any money and he’d tell them to go fill up a basket and he’d give them food,” son Terry Huff recalled. “He only had one condition. If there were cartons of cigarettes in the basket he would take them out.
“But people didn’t take advantage.”
Huff’s Grocery, first located in the building that is now home to Inside Out furniture store on what is now Wilson Pike Circle near Church Street, was the closest store to what was referred to as the Hardscuffle community, an area settled by African-Americans at the turn of the century.
Years before integration, Huff’s store was open to all.
“You could walk in that store and find the fanciest person in Brentwood and someone who lived in a house that had a dirt floor there at the same time," Mike Huff said. “My dad was color blind.”
As a Brentwood business owner, Glenn Huff was active in the early years of the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce and served on the city’s first planning commission. He helped develop Carondelet subdivision with his next door neighbor, real estate broker Ed Beasley in the early 1960s.
Neither Mike nor Terry Huff had plans to follow in their father’s footsteps and take over the business. But in 1975, Glenn Huff called Mike, who was establishing himself in the banking profession. “He said, ‘Son, I want you to come work for me,’” said Mike, who politely declined.
A year and a half later, the elder Huff called again.
This time Mike agreed to a partnership. In 1976 they bought property across the street and in 1983 Huff’s Grocery relocated to a new and much bigger building there. Brentwood Interiors now occupies the former grocery store.
“There are people in our lives who have cheered us on to higher things. Glenn Huff was that person for me,” says Lynda Stone, owner of Puffy Muffin restaurant and bakery. “In a time when a woman in business was not the norm, Mike and Mr. Glenn took a chance on a young, inexperienced woman who had a dream. They allowed me to rent the bakery space in their beautiful, new store.
“After a year and a half (of building her business in her home), the opportunity to experience business in a ‘real’ store was such a gift.”
Over the past 25 years, Stone has grown her own business into one of the most successful enterprises in Brentwood. But she never forgot her mentor.
“Mr. Glenn was that kind voice in my life that helped me press on. Even after I left Huff’s for the Hill Center, Mr. Glenn continued his encouragement. I received those surprise calls at home that continued through the years from Mr. Glenn. He would call me at home just to say how proud he was of me and for me to press on.
“I will never forget this faithful man who knew how to love generously,” she said.
|Glenn and Honor Huff with their sons Mike, right, and Terry at their little house behind their old "new" store, what is now Brentwood Interiors|
A real ‘Sandlot’ life
Glenn and Honor Allen Huff first lived with their two little boys in the small frame house that still stands between Brentwood Interiors and Bellefant & Miles CPA office on Wilson Pike Circle. It had an out house and no telephone, Terry Huff recalled.
“In 1953, Dad built the ‘big house’ which couldn’t have been over 1000 square feet,” just to the south of what was then Wilson Pike, said Terry Huff. “It had a one-car garage and an indoor bathroom.
“I remember Mom said, ‘We've made it.’”
That house, now home to a day spa, was next door to the one Andy Beasley's family moved into the year before he and Mike started elementary school together. The two have been best friends ever since.
“He was a kind and generous man,” recalled Beasley. “Mr. and Mrs. Huff were Ozzie and Harriett. Of course, Brentwood was a different place in those days, but he made everyone feel special.”
He also taught Mike, Terry and Andy to love athletics “and do the best we could,” Beasley shared. “There’s nothing we wouldn’t have done for him.”
Glenn Huff was a well-known baseball player in Williamson County. “He was a slugger,” Terry Huff said. He played on teams in both Burwood and Spring Hill comprised of his brothers, cousins and friends. His father was the manager.
“I believe some of them could have played professionally,” Terry Huff said of his father and his teammates.
Glenn Huff and his brothers played against teams throughout Middle Tennessee. Huff was a center fielder but his sons recall one game when he was called in to play first base.
“He got the ball and was supposed to throw in to home plate but instead threw it so hard it hit Mike in the stands,” Terry said.
His father helped his sons, Andy and their friends build a real sandlot baseball field behind their two houses. He also helped them form “our own little football league” decades before there was an organized Brentwood Blaze. A carpenter friend down the street built the Huffs a basketball goal.
Glenn Huff spent hours teaching his sons how to play sports and then played with them. “I remember one time when we ran out of baseballs,” Terry Huff said. “He came home with a dozen baseballs, two bats and a glove.
“It’s too bad I was no good,” he joked.
Like the movie The Sandlot, Terry Huff shared a story about an autographed baseball that found its way from his father’s desk to the sandlot field.
“We usually only had one ball and we lost it. I said, ‘I know where there’s a ball.’”
In 1962, Glenn Huff had caught a foul ball with his bare hand at a Kansas City Athletics game. The As were playing the Yankees and the family had gone to see Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and the other greats who played for the Yankees at the time.“
The crowd applauded,” Terry recalled when his dad made the catch. The ball had been hit by Norm Siebern, who later autographed it for Glenn. It was something his dad cherished.
“I went and got that ball. … We just kept using it until you couldn’t even see the autograph.”
Terry didn’t share what happened when his father discovered it missing.
A minister in the best sense
Glenn and Honor Huff didn’t have daughters but they did provide a home to “probably 12 to 15 unwed mothers over the years” as part of their ministry with AGAPE. The Huffs were among the non-profit's founding families.
Mr. Huff also helped found the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief and was a longtime director of the program. “He was very proud of that,” Mike Huff said.
He received the highly acclaimed "Legend Award" presented by the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce and also was a recipient of Brentwood Rotary Club Community Service Award.
Glenn and Honor received the "Helping Hand Award" from the Williamson Medical Center for their work with cancer patients. They spent many hours transporting patients to and from airports, to doctor's appointments along with other acts of love, care and support.
About 15 years ago, the Huffs started attending the small, historic Owen Chapel Church of Christ near the intersection of Franklin and Concord roads. In a 2009 interview with Brentwood Home Page about the church’s 150th anniversary, Mr. Huff said when they first visited, they were struck by how few people were there.
“I thought they needed me,” he said. “I thought I could make a difference.”
When his wife passed away in 2008, members of the church served as honorary pallbearers.
Bologna sandwiches and conversation
Terry Huff shared that after he and his brother left for college, his parents built a house “three times” the size of the “big house” on Wilson Pike Circle they had grown up in. The new house was in Country Club Estates, which is bordered by Franklin Road, Wilson Pike Circle, the CSX railroad tracks and Green Pastures Farm, owned by Cal Turner Jr.
Neighbors in the “new” neighborhood “deemed Glenn our own ‘Neighborhood Mayor,’ as he served as president of our homeowners association for so many years,” said friend and neighbor Peggy Howell. “Glenn enjoyed calling our neighbors reminding them of our next pot luck dinner and meeting. When Glenn called, neighbors turned out in mass. No one could say no to Glenn.”
Howell recalled how Huff and her father would drive to the Burwood Market together to enjoy bologna sandwiches and conversations, “in that order.”
Brentwood Police Chief Ricky Watson was another who shared many a bologna and cheese sandwich with Mr. Huff.
“Glenn Huff was a great man. He was very kind, generous, and very moral man. Many people could use him and his life as an example of how to do things right,” Watson said. “He always had a great smile for me and always kind words.
“Brentwood has lost a wonderful man.”
“He loved people so much,” Terry Huff said. “I’ve never known anybody else who loved people so much.
“My mom once said he could strike up a conversation with a sign post. And he could.”