Deemed the Model City’s oldest eatery, Nick’s Restaurant finally opened the doors to its second location at 3301 N. Roan St. on Friday.
Owners Roger Hutchins and his wife Kristy said an overwhelming customer request for a Nick’s in Johnson City is what spurred the expansion.
“People just kept saying, ‘You need to bring Nick’s to Johnson City. You need to bring Nick’s to Washington County,’” Hutchins said.
“So, basically when this building became available and got to a price that we felt was a good investment, it was like a win-win. The stars aligned. We said, ‘OK, let’s make a deal.’”
Located in the former Dixie Barbecue location, Roger Hutchins said his family has been renovating and preparing the new location for nearly nine months.
“It’s been a long, emotional process but we’re here. We had our soft opening for family and friends (Thursday night) and it went well. Today has went way beyond what we dreamed, to be honest with you. We haven’t been able to keep up,” Hutchins said.
While Nick’s is mostly known for its crispy fried chicken and coleslaw combination, the restaurant boasts a menu full of Southern cuisine commonly found in any grandmother’s kitchen.
In 2016, the Hutchinses became the third family to own Nick’s Restaurant after buying the business from Clarence Hobbs and his family.
The business’ founder, Nick Nave, is credited with being the first person to introduce the method of broasting chicken to the Tri-Cities in 1966.
According to author Fred Sauceman in his book “The Place Setting: Timeless Tastes of the Mountain South, from Bright Hope to Frog Level,” Nave first observed the high-pressure cooking method in Louisville, Kentucky.
Sauceman said Nave brought that knowledge back to Northeast Tennessee and made his first attempt at broasting chicken at the old Dutch Boy Grill.
It wasn’t long after that when Nave bought property along Sherwood Road in Kingsport and opened the inaugural Nick’s Restaurant, which still stands today.
“Kristy and I only have the privilege of carrying it on,” Hutchins said.
“Who put in the hard work and who deserves the praise is the late Nick Nave and the late Clarence Hobbs. We have great relationships with their families. They’ve been helpful. They’re appreciative of us carrying on the name and keeping things the way they were.”
Not long after opening Friday, Hutchins said a woman who identified herself as Nick Nave’s daughter stopped by the new location to chat about the restaurant her father founded in 1938.
“It really was a big honor for me to meet Nick’s daughter,” Hutchins said.
“We’re blessed. It’s about the product. It’s about what the Nave family and the Hobbs family built. It’s about our wonderful staff. It’s all about them and we appreciate everybody that got us to this point.”
Nick’s Restaurant in Johnson City is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
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