The Four Way began its long journey
as a table or two stuck in the corner of a pool hall, where those trying to sink the eight ball in the right pocket could get a hot dog or sandwich, and a beer. But in 1946, former mayor E.H. “Boss” Crump’s chauffeur Clint Cleaves and his wife Irene Cleaves took out a $1,500 loan on their house and purchased the tiny enterprise and soon began expanding both the space and the menu, creating what would become one of the most famous soul food restaurants in the South, and for more than just its cuisine.
By the early 1950s, Irene Cleaves had expanded the restaurant into a front counter with stools that still served casual food, but had added a private dining room in the back that sat 45 people, had white tablecloths, waiters and waitresses in white uniforms, and one thing that helped make it the place to see and be seen: a doorbell at the private backdoor entrance. Patrons wanting to sit in the dining room had to ring the bell and be approved for entrance by the staff. That tradition would last well into the early 1990s and was an attraction unto itself for many visitors through the years such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, Pops Staples and the Staple Singers, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Elvis Presley, Redd Foxx, Aretha Franklin, Ike and Tina Turner, and dozens of others, including the many artists at nearby Stax Records.