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Restaurant owners make childhood dream come true

Madison Mathews • Oct 22, 2012 at 4:50 PM

As children, Bridgette Gordon and Tiffany Greenlee would joke about running a restaurant called Salt N’ Pepper.

As adults trying to figure out what they could do to support their families, the two lifelong friends decided to take that childhood dream and turn it into a reality.

“We were always cooking. We were always doing fundraisers with the cheerleading squad and we’d have fish frys all the time, and when we’d get together with our friends at least two or three times a week, we would just make these big, huge meals. It was fun. It was just a time for us to get together and socialize,” Gordon said.

Taking their love of home-cooked, feel-good soul food, like chicken livers, chicken and dumplings, fried green tomatoes, and chicken and waffles, Gordon and Greenlee opened Salt N’ Pepper, 3002 E. Oakland Ave., at the beginning of the year.

Gordon and Greenlee seriously began toying around with the restaurant idea last November. They drew up some mock menus, then Greenlee found the vacant building on Oakland Avenue.

The building had been home to a number of restaurants over the years — all of which had closed their doors.

“Everybody told us not to go here,” Greenlee said.

Despite the building’s run of bad luck in keeping a tenant, the two women called up the landlords and visited the property.

Within three days of looking at the Oakland Avenue building, Gordon said the lease was signed, a deposit was paid and she and Greenlee drew up a business plan.

In what was a bit of a short turnaround, Salt N’ Pepper was open for business, serving up its first plates of chicken and waffles.

Once the doors opened, word began to spread around town about just how serious Gordon and Greenlee were about their soul food.

“Around here, if people aren’t talking about it, you’re not going to go check it out, no matter how many ads you see or coupons you get,” Gordon said.

Salt N’ Pepper consistently receives high scores on the travel website TripAdvisor, where they’re currently ranked fourth out of 173 restaurants in Johnson City.

“When I can’t sleep at night, I Google Salt N’ Pepper just to read the reviews,” Gordon said.

That kind of attention to detail is partly what keeps their customers coming back every week. The fact that the food is good doesn’t hurt either.

Everything on the menu is made from scratch and nearly everything is made to order.

Gordon said they aren’t scared to use salt, butter and bacon in their food, so if you’re worried about sticking to the diet, Salt N’ Pepper might not be the best place for you.

“We have salads. We can grill your chicken. We don’t have any light dressings,” Greenlee said.

“Who wants light dressing?” Gordon asked.

Whatever it is they’re making, Gordon and Greenlee are just happy to be working at a job they both love.

“We’re not thirsty for money. As long as we’re making money and able to stay open and we can still have a staff and able to put a little bit in our pocket, that’s all that matters. We’re not trying to get rich off this place,” Gordon said.

For more information, visit www.saltnpeppertn.com.

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