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.
Serving customers since 1946
Under the leadership of Willie Bates, the restaurant served as a place for the community to gather in order to fight crime, blight and other social ills. From its original owner, Irene Cleaves to its present day owners, the Bates family, the Four Way has maintained its importance in the community and continues to attract guests from around the world