Best boss and best burger are some of the many descriptions immediately said last week by friends and family of Robert Anthony “Tony” Brown, the owner of popular Dickson hamburger restaurant Tony B’s.
Brown died on Sept. 14 at TriStar Horizon Medical Center in Dickson due to complications from COVID-19, according to Sheilah Sullivan, one of Brown’s three sisters.
Brown was remembered as having a larger-than-life personality and an even larger generous heart.
Crystal Cathey, Traci Fey and Tonya Garner – all employees of the Heights Finance Corporation branch located next door to Tony B’s at the Dickson Plaza — said Brown referred to himself as “The Mayor of The Complex.”
All three women said Brown had a regular parking spot which he guarded diligently, and that he felt responsible for the safety of other tenants in the strip mall.
Cathey and Fey said they ate at the restaurant frequently and noted it was always packed with customers.
“Even after it closed at night, people still tried to get in,” Fey said.
“He treated his customers well and always wanted to know their names,” Cathey said.
Some other of Brown’s professional neighbors remarked that his concern for customers went beyond the restaurant.
“He always wanted to help people,” Garner said.
Brown, whose father was also a restaurant owner, opened Tony B’s in 2010. He began his professional life in the freight business but wanted to try something new.
Sullivan said he was a perfectionist when it came to his customers, making everything fresh and getting ingredients of the highest quality.
“He put his hands on everything that went out of his kitchen,” Sullivan said.
Brown often worked 16-18 days in a row, but his sister said it wasn’t a job to him because he loved what he did, and he loved the people he served.
“People kept telling him to retire and get a hobby, but he would say, ‘This is my hobby. This is all I want to do,’ ” Sullivan said.
His employees also were important to him.
“He got COVID (three) Saturdays ago, which turned into COVID pneumonia. His only worry when he got sick was getting the place open so his girls could get paid,” Sullivan said.
Brandy Morgan worked at Tony B’s off and on since it first opened. She referred to her late boss as a man of God and a father figure, making her first job a learning experience for her.
“He wanted me to learn to do things correctly. He was hard on you, but it was because he wanted you to do well. You had to get to know him to see who he really was,” Morgan said.
Brown’s desire to give his customers the best possible dining experience manifested itself in many ways, according to Morgan. For example, some regular customers wanted special ingredients on their burgers like fried eggs or peanut butter. Brown kept those items on hand just for those customers.
Morgan said that Brown helped his employees, many from the local recovery community, saying he would pay for their treatment and hold their jobs for them until they completed the program.
“Tony was very forgiving. He always believed in second chances, third chances and fourth chances,” she said.
Brown never married and is survived by a son, Jeremy Brown, three sisters Sheilah Sullivan, Melissa Hiett, and Karen Pinkerton, a brother Kevin Brown, and several nieces and nephews.