Dan Holt's been self-employed pretty much all his working life.
Holt recently purchased the Shoney's restaurant in Lewisburg, but he started out delivering the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.
Dogs chased him on his routes, Holt said recently over coffee at his second Shoney's restaurant. There's a Marshall County Tribune sales rack in front of the restaurant.
As he spoke, customer Amber Begley of Cornersville admired the restaurant's renovation while visiting her friend, Jennifer Wallace, a waitress.
"Everything has changed; attitudes, everything," says the woman who's served there four years. "I make a lot of friends here."
At age 12, Holt rode a bicycle on his first route delivering 130 papers. He switched to a motorcycle when he and the route grew. Holt wore out five motorcycles and delivered more than 600 papers before he quit. By then, he was driving a car. Now, 51, Holt drives a Cadillac and owns several businesses.
Holt's proud of his newspaper delivery years. "It built a lot of character... There was no calling in sick." It's what made him want to be his own boss.
"As newspaper delivery boys, we ran our own business," Holt said. "We paid for the papers, delivered them, and collected the bill. So, it was like running my own business."
Holt is the proprietor of Lincoln County Vending, a Fayetteville-based business that includes sales of janitorial supplies such as paper towels and cleaning equipment.
"My biggest seller is paper towels and the price is going up all the time," he said, acknowledging an issue faced by newspapers as well.
Two years ago, Holt bought the Fayetteville Shoney's and "had a good run of success," he said. "It was the No. 1 restaurant in percent sales increase, and the company got behind me and gave me an opportunity to expand.
"They offered three different ones and at this point I chose to only do one until I could get my arms around this one. We are currently in negotiations for another," Holt said.
There's a fairly well known story on how Shoney's was established in Lewisburg.
"A prominent businessman wanted to get a Shoney's in Lewisburg and made the deal to set them up with a building," Holt said. "His family was very agreeable in helping to get me favorable terms to keep the restaurant viable in Lewisburg in exchange for us putting a lot of money into the building, of course."
Holt hired local contractors for most everything he did and purchased most of the materials in Lewisburg. The Floor Shop installed the tile floor.
His mother, Bettye (Dan) Holt Sr., lives in Shelbyville. His wife, Pattie, is from Fayetteville. They've been married 29 years.
Bettye has supported "my ambition over the years," Holt said. They have two boys and two girls and they're members of First Baptist Church of Fayetteville.
"My wife is an excellent cook," Holt said. "I can eat. I can cook a little, but I can eat a lot."