Reba McEntire has a lot on her plate. In addition to film and TV projects, including Lifetime’s “The Hammer” and ABC’s “Big Sky,” she’s soon kicking off a spring tour that will culminate in her first-ever concert at Madison Square Garden, and she’s working on a lifestyle and entertaining book to be released this fall. In the midst of it all, she’ll be appearing this Thursday, January 26, at the grand opening of Reba’s Place, a restaurant and music venue in Atoka, Oklahoma, very near to where she grew up. Luckily, we got Reba to sit still just long enough to chat about that last venture.
Why open Reba’s Place now?
Well, if you remember 2020, everybody was sitting around twiddling their thumbs, and that’s when we came up with all these ideas for when we could get out there again. I was back in Oklahoma for a while because my siblings and cousins still live there, and an official in Atoka named Carol Ervin gave a presentation about how much a project like Reba’s Place could benefit the town. That community always has been very supportive of me, and I wanted to give back. So we partnered with the Choctaw Nation, and it all came together amazingly well. You can’t go into a town that small and do something like this project without the full support of everyone who lives there.
What was it like growing up around there?
Atoka is a very small town, but it’s right there on the highway between Tulsa and Dallas. I was raised twelve miles north, on a working cattle ranch in Chockie. My father and grandfather were both champion rodeo steer ropers. Atoka was the county seat, so we’d go there fairly often. When I was sixteen, I entered an essay contest at a Ford dealership that was just down the street from where Reba’s Place is now, and I won the use of a car for six months. And just around the corner was Thompson Theatre, where my sister and I went to see Gone With the Wind, but we didn’t have enough money, so we had to search under the car seats to find some loose change.
What do you recall of the building that was converted into Reba’s Place?
It had been a Masonic Temple, but I don’t remember much about it except that it was across the street from the five-and-dime. It needed a lot of work. When my boyfriend [actor Rex Linn] and I first went to look at the space, we got up to the second floor, and then the stairs collapsed behind us. Firefighters had to come with a ladder for us to climb down from an outside window. So the building was pretty much stripped to the bare bones and rebuilt. Don’t worry, the stairs are in good shape now.
What kind of experience will people have at Reba’s Place?
It has fifteen thousand square feet over three floors. Upstairs is a retail area for merchandise, and downstairs is the restaurant and stage. I wanted to keep the stage small because I don’t want big productions and loud music—I just want people to be able to go there to listen to some music with their neighbors and have something good to eat. For the menu, I had my list of things that had to be on there, like chicken-fried chicken, and pintos and cornbread. And my smashed potatoes that I make with garlic and onion.
Will the decor include memorabilia from your career?
Oh yes, I’m a pack rat and have been saving things from day one! I even have rodeo things that belonged to my mom and dad, and then there are outfits that I’ve worn for concerts and movies and album covers. We’re also paying homage to the Choctaws, because everybody needs to know their long history in that area.
How often do you see yourself making an appearance at Reba’s Place?
As much as I possibly can. It’s a great excuse for getting to go back home to Oklahoma. The whole thing is just really a family-and-friends-type situation. I’m thrilled to pieces with it all.