Nearly four years ago, Jennifer Wilcox was a struggling drug addict living at the Cadillac Motel. Today, she is the general manager of the renovated and recently reopened Cadillac Restaurant, where she is about to celebrate her fourth year of recovery.
A New Jersey native, Jennifer moved to Kentucky to start over, though a fresh start was difficult as she continued to battle drug addiction.
“I came to Kentucky with an ex-boyfriend. We weren’t in our right minds — we were on drugs and all that,” she said. “We came to Kentucky thinking we’d get a fresh start, and that’s not really how it happened.”
Jennifer spent time in the Hopkinsville jail and got kicked out of two different rehab facilities. After that, she was taken in by her future mother-in-law, who worked at the Cadillac along with Jennifer’s soon-to-be husband, Jacob. Jennifer was offered a job at the restaurant, where she met Jacob for the first time.
“I’ve screwed up a lot in my life, but I’ve always worked in the restaurant industry,” she said. “I worked in the kitchen at a hospital in Jersey for a while.”
After meeting Jacob, things didn’t immediately turn around for Jennifer as she and Jacob began getting high together, she said. Jacob’s apartment at the Cadillac caught fire, and the couple lost everything of value they had.
“Right after that, we started going to church at Eaton Memorial, right across the street,” she said. “We ended up losing everything, and I was fed up. I couldn’t live like this anymore.”
Jennifer and Jacob began living at the Daniel Pitino Shelter and checked into rehab at RiverValley Chemical Dependency (RCD) for a 30-day program. After previous failed rehab attempts, Jennifer and Jacob got clean at RCD and have continued their sobriety since.
The couple had three children and obtained joint-custody of Jacob’s two stepsons. With five kids, the couple moved out of the Pitino Shelter and into a new, four-bedroom house that was donated to them through Habitat for Humanity.
Sitting in one of the Cadillac Restaurant’s recovered booths, Jennifer pointed out the window toward Second Street and said her new home was right down the road from her workplace.
Over the past six months, Jennifer and her husband began working at Eaton Memorial and even started a recovery program for addicts called “Addicted.” They wanted to have their meetings at the Cadillac, but the owner told Jennifer it was closed down.
“The wife put a bug in my ear, and said, ‘Why don’t you and Jacob lease it out?’” Jennifer said. “They wanted some personable people to take it over. That’s kind of why I came to Kentucky in the first place, to start a restaurant. It’s always been a passion of mine.”
Jennifer and Jacob prayed about opportunity and felt it was the perfect chance to reach out to their community and do some good. They decided to lease out the building and reopen the restaurant after months of closure.
Though Jennifer and her team have cleaned and redecorated the inside of the restaurant thoroughly, she pointed out that the Cadillac Motel is in a rough area — one that she’d like to make a positive impact on through her restaurant and its food.
Jennifer decided to bring plate lunches back after hearing requests from members of the community. She kept the Grecian pizzas and breakfast items on the menu, but said all of her ingredients are fresh, not frozen.
She said customers have responded positively to the food that’s been served since reopening on Nov. 1.
“We were living at the Cadillac before, and that’s kind of where we started,” she said. “The hope for my husband is really to bring people to Jesus, and me — I just want to make people happy through the food.”