SPRINGHILL — Christine McCutcheon didn't plan on AmJenn's ice cream and soup shop having a 50s diner motif.
She only wanted a soup and ice cream shop similar to that of her inspiration in Ridgewood, N.J.
"When I opened, I had no decorations on the wall except maybe one Texaco sign I stole out of the garage," McCutcheon said. "Then a customer brought in a signed picture of Ronald Reagan. All of a sudden my customers started bringing something in - Elvis, old skates, records, Marilyn. I didn't really decide to do the 50s style diner — it was given to me."
McCutcheon worked as a nurse for 20 years, saving cash to open AmJenn's. A military child and later wife, it was when she and her husband were in New Jersey she knew she wanted to open the shop in Springhill.
"I kind of grew up here, spending summers here and mowing my grandma's yard," she said. "(In New Jersey) they have a Main Street that people just walk up and down.
They park at one end and walk to the other. There's an ice cream shop, a theater and park. People would get an ice cream cone and go the park or movies."
The space was once a jewelry store, and McCutcheon worked right alongside electricians and plumbers making it into the diner. She even hand painted the checkerboard wall border that circles the dining rooms.
In addition to the 50s memorabilia, walls are adorned with dozens of photos of customers enjoying their ice cream. The tradition began when she and a few friends were constructing an ice cream sidewalk sign.
"We just took pictures of that and put it on the wall. Then we had a hula hoop contest, and we wanted people to see we have fun stuff going on," McCutcheon said. "I had full intentions of taking them down, but I didn't. The next thing I know, everyone who came in would say 'I want my picture on the wall.'"
Customers whose photos grace the walls as they ate at AmJenn's in high school now come in with their own kids. People have borrowed photos from the wall for funerals and wedding slide shows.
McCutcheon said one coach who came in every day would place his order and look at the photos. One day he noticed one he hadn't seen before — an older photo out of a calendar.
"He had this sad, surprised look on his face and said, 'That's my wife,'" McCutcheon said. "She had passed away two years earlier and the picture was her at SAU (Southern Arkansas University) when Elvis was there. It was above where he always sat, I thought, 'Holy cow.'"