The company announced last week it would pay for Ray and Wilma Yoder’s trip to Portland, Ore., to visit the nearby Tualatin Cracker Barrel location, which would be the couple’s 645th visit to a Cracker Barrel.
The trip would fulfill the couple’s goal to visit all Cracker Barrel locations in the country.
The Tualatin location is the only remaining unvisited Cracker Barrel location for the Yoders, 80, of Goshen, Ind., after they attended a ribbon cutting ceremony in Lavonia, Ga., last month.
“Through their travels across the country, Ray and Wilma Yoder have inspired and delighted thousands of the people who work in our stores. To the people who have welcomed and served them over the years, Ray and Wilma are more than valued guests. They are our family within our home. To share back with you just a small part of the joy you have brought with you into 644 Cracker Barrel stores, Cracker Barrel is sending both of you to Portland, where we will celebrate your achievement with you. Welcome back, Ray and Wilma,” the company said in a release.
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 last month. “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.
The consistency the couple displays during their visits mirrors the reason they enjoy Cracker Barrel, a place they said they’ve never had a bad experience.
“It’s the same good service and great people wherever you go,” Ray said.
Cracker Barrel was started in 1969 in one store that still stands off what is now State Route 109 in Lebanon.