It all began back in the early 1920s, when Thomas Snyder, a chemist at The Evans Soap Co. in Camden, lived in a tent while erecting the building that now houses Pic-A-Lilli Inn in Shamong.
What is now Route 206 was formerly State Highway 39, where Snyder’s Luncheonette opened in 1927. Snyder, also a Justice of the Peace, moved into one of the six rooms above his luncheonette, while he rented out the others. He not only used the upstairs as a hotel, but as a place to hold court meetings. Once the luncheonette business picked up, he needed help operating the business.
So he sent word to his only daughter Lillian, her husband Pickett Russell Sr. and their two sons Tom and Pickett, Jr. in Arkansas to join him in New Jersey. They came at once.
In 1933, after Prohibition, Russell, Sr. decided to add a barroom and acquired the first liquor license in Shamong Township. The luncheonette was renamed Snyder’s Tavern. When Snyder passed away in 1937, he left the business to Lillian. To show new ownership, Pickett, Sr. and Lillian felt a new name was needed. An employee Alma Hall came across a jar of Pic-A-Lilli relish and recommended the name. All agreed it was a great idea, since it included both of their names. The Pic-A-Lilli Inn was born.
In the 1940s, Pickett, Sr. was an avid rodeo enthusiast, and many riders would stop in. Even Gene Autry, a famous rider, movie star and a personal friend of Pickett’s, would often visit. You can find a picture of the two still hanging behind the bar. Another famous patron of the time was humorist Will Rogers, who had stopped in specifically to compare his resemblance to Pickett, Sr.
At about this time, Pickett, Jr. began courting Florence Hall, daughter of employee Alma Hall. Eventually Pickett, Jr., 16, married Florence, 17, and they immediately began their family, eventually having six children: Pickett III (Butch), Lillian Alma (Bonnie), Wallace, Bruce, Donald and John Henry (Buddy, now deceased). When Pickett, Sr. passed away in 1953, his last wishes were to hold his funeral at the Pic-A-Lilli.
It was during the 1970s that the children decided to build another addition, this time for a package goods store, where Pickett, Jr.’s extensive bottle collection is still on display today.
The most famous patron of the day may be the Russells’ pet goat Billy, often seen living it up at the bar. Newspaper articles relaying the antics of the goat still remain in the main dining room.
In 1974, Lillian passed away, so Pickett, Jr. and his wife Florence took over the restaurant. For years the business flourished and many, many friends were made. The whole family was involved in operating the business. Pickett and Florence poured their love into the food and drink side, while Donnie worked in the kitchen, Bonnie and all of the sons’ wives worked in the dining room, and the “comic duo” of Bruce and Wallace managed the bar.
When Florence passed away in 1980, Pickett, Jr. continued to run the business until his dying day in 2000. Their legend, however, continues. In the early 1990s Bruce and his wife Sandy opened Russell’s Pic II in Ancora, and the Pic-A-Lilli Pub opened in Atlantic City. Donnie and his wife Barbara opened Pic-A-Lilli Wings & Things and Pic-A-Deli in Medford. When Pickett, Jr. passed on, he left The Original Pic-A-Lilli Inn to his remaining five children.
The family is now in its fifth generation and the business continues to grow. Thanks to that original liquor license, still in use, the good-time barroom and cozy dining room allows for locals and those friends just passing through, to enjoy their delicious food, such as the almost-world-famous buffalo wings and crab soup.
The Pic-A-Lilli Inn’s history continues growing every day.
This article originally appeared in The Atlantic City Weekly. (April 24, 2017)