How The 1970s Oil Embargo Changed Cracker Barrel Forever

We are distant from the bell-bottom days of the 1970s with our laptops, flat-screen TVs, and other modern wonders. But as 19th century philosopher Frederich Nietzsche once wrote, "Time is a flat circle"; which means that people will do the same things over and over again, and similar events will repeatedly happen. Today, we experience high gas prices (via CBS News), just as folks struggled with gas prices and shortages in the '70s. 

The short version of the 1970s oil crisis can be summarized as this: The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) placed an embargo on oil going to the United States as part of a protest against the U.S. assisting Israel in the Yom Kippur War (via HISTORY). As oil became increasingly more expensive and scarce, the automotive and energy industries in the United States took a severe blow, leading to gas shortages and, in some cases, energy rationing.

In 1969, gas station employee Dan Evins took notice of America's still young interstate and those weary, asphalt-riding drivers who needed a break to refresh. Evins envisioned an old-fashioned place to take care of folks on the road where they can find peace by sitting down and enjoying an affordable home-cooked meal. On September 19 of that year, the first Cracker Barrel opened in Lebanon, Tennessee, according to the Cracker Barrel website. But just what exactly does the 1970s oil crisis have anything to do with a country store-themed restaurant? 

Cracker Barrels originally had gas stations

Nowadays at a Cracker Barrel, you can purchase country-themed foods such as fresh-made biscuits and some knick-knacks, games, and candy from the gift shop. But back in the swinging '60s and '70s, you could not only fill your stomach, but your car too. Dan Evins was an employee of his grandfather's gas station, and as such, he wanted to find a way that would bring both profit to his family while catering to folks who had spent their time driving up and down the interstate highways of America. 

Thus, when the first Cracker Barrel opened, it also included a gas station so drivers could fill up their cars in addition to eating at the restaurant and browsing the country store (via Funding Universe). But the energy crisis of the mid-'70s hit, the price of oil skyrocketed, and customers were driving less to save money on gas. So, as new Cracker Barrels began to spring up, Evins ironically abandoned the gas station concept when building new locations, the very thing that inspired his idea in the first place. 

While Cracker Barrels no longer sell gas, some locations do offer ways for travelers to refuel their vehicles — multiple stores currently have electric charging stations, according to a news release. Maybe time really is a flat circle.