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Tupelo Honey Cafe looking for next location; Johnson City among possibilities

Madison Mathews • Mar 13, 2012 at 6:04 PM

The tastes of Tupelo Honey Cafe, a popular eatery based in Asheville, N.C., could make Johnson City its new home — all you have to do is head to the restaurant’s page on Facebook and cast your vote.

On Monday, the restaurant posted a poll on the social media site asking its hungry patrons to vote for the next town that will house a Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Tupelo Honey’s Director of Marketing Elizabeth Sims said Tupelo Honey’s unique twist on Southern cuisine is one of the things that separates it from other restaurants, allowing the restaurant to further expand its reach in other markets.

“We think we’ve got a wonderful product and great food and we know that we have a very strong and loyal fan base, which is a wonderful thing, so where it makes good business sense, we’ll look and see if there’s an opportunity,” Sims said.

When then poll is closed Friday, the winning city will get a guaranteed site selection visit from Tupelo Honey owners and management staff.

As of Tuesday evening, two locations in the Tri-Cities were vying for the lead in a poll that boasts about 45 possible locations, including Charleston, S.C.; Nashville; and Grand Rapids, Mich. Kingsport was leading with 670 votes, while Johnson City was second with 600 votes and Bristol, Va., was third with 251 votes.

Tupelo Honey’s Director of Marketing Elizabeth Sims wasn’t surprised by the amount of positive response coming from the Tri-Cities region.

“We get lots of great feedback and lots of folks from the Tri-Cities area who come and eat with us in Asheville, so we know that there’s a strong fan base there, but we are looking at a bunch of different markets,” she said by phone Tuesday.

The poll comes on heels of the restaurant’s first-ever expansion into Tennessee.

Expected to open this summer, Tupelo Honey Cafe will be taking its signature dishes and vibe to downtown Knoxville at The Oliver Hotel, making it the third location since the restaurant first opened in downtown Asheville, N.C. in 2000. A second Asheville, N.C. location opened in 2010.

The Knoxville location will have 150 seats, in addition to including its signature bar, The Sweet Spot, which will feature specialty cocktails, regional micro-brews and wine. The restaurant will be located on the lower floor of the hotel in Knoxville’s Market Square.

“We’re eager to get going up there,” Sims said.

The Facebook poll will remain open through Friday. When a winner is selected, Sims said, the Tupelo Honey team will coordinate with its site selection firm to begin looking at the location and what potential it might hold.

While she declined to comment on whether the Tri-Cities would make a good home for the restaurant, Sims said the area’s response proves there’s a definite desire for Tupelo Honey to make its way there.

“We have lots of fans and looking at the response, we’re getting tons of feedback from Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, so what’s not to love about that?” she said.

To vote, head to http://www.facebook.com/questions/10150606127183022/ or the restaurant’s page at Facebook.com/TupeloHoneyCafe.

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