The Yoders, of Goshen, Ind., needed just one Cracker Barrel – the Tualatin, Oregon Cracker Barrel location – to complete their goal of dining at all 645 Cracker Barrel locations.
"For the past 40 years, Ray and Wilma Yoder have touched the hearts of Cracker Barrel employees across the country. We are thankful to have served them so many times over the years and honored to have been a part of many happy memories they have shared during their 60 years together. So many of us have our own personal stories about times when the Yoders stopped by our stores to pay a visit and we look forward to many more,” the company said in a statement.
Cracker Barrel showered the couple during the trip, including presenting the Yoders with official Cracker Barrel aprons and ushering them into the restaurant with a hand clap tunnel made up of Cracker Barrel employees.
“Cracker Barrel is our home away from home. During our visits to Cracker Barrel stores over the past 40 years, we have made friends across the country and enjoyed making wonderful memories together. Each of the 645 stores we have visited has been special to us, and we are so happy to celebrate today with our Cracker Barrel family in Portland,” the Yoders said.
The quest to visit every Cracker Barrel store started 40 years ago when Ray Yoder worked for Coachman, delivering recreational vehicles across the country. He said Cracker Barrel was more than a place to get some food during his travels.
“It took the boredom out of being on the road,” he said earlier this year. “It has a down-home spirit, and everybody is friendly. It’s like being at home.”
Wilma Yoder eventually joined him on his trips, and the couple started visiting various Cracker Barrel locations, which were typically near an interstate.
After about 30 years of traveling and visiting Cracker Barrel stores, the couple started to gain attention from Cracker Barrel employees and leadership, becoming Cracker Barrel celebrities.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s something we’ve followed this long, but it’s gained attention in the last 10 years or so,” said Ray Yoder, who said the couple often receives gift baskets and other items when they visit, along with requests for pictures.
The couple follows two rules when the couple visits a location – buy something and leave a tip.
“We always buy something – a cup of coffee, candy or something. We don’t just pull into the parking lot and leave,” he said.
Cracker Barrel was started in 1969 in one store that still stands off what is now State Route 109 in Lebanon.