The historic CC&O Railroad Depot at the corner of West State of Franklin Road and Buffalo Street is a hive of construction activity, with a new roof going on and replacement timbers being fitted. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
A long-awaited restaurant is moving closer to occupying its targeted historic downtown Johnson City site, but hungry patrons will have to endure at least at least eight more months before sitting down to a meal of farm-fresh Southern cuisine.
“We’re making great progress, I saw pictures of the roof going on yesterday, and it’s looking really good,” Tupelo Honey Cafe Director of Marketing Elizabeth Sims said Friday. “There’s a lot of activity all around the depot between Founder’s Park, the farmers market and the other projects, it’s fun to be a part of all this activity.”
Originally postponed by construction delays from the fall 2013 target, Tupelo Honey’s opening is on track for spring 2014, Sims said.
Co-developer Greg Cox said the historic CC&O Railroad Depot at the corner of West State of Franklin Road and Buffalo Street is a hive of construction activity, with a new roof going on and replacement timbers being fitted.
“We ran into a little bit more wood rot than we expected, but it’s starting to take shape,” he said.
Cox said construction crews should be finished with the repairs and installing heating, air conditioning and electric wiring by the end of the year, and then the building shell will be turned over to the restaurant’s workers for the finishing touches.
Sims said once Tupelo Honey opens in the 104-year-old depot, it will employ an estimated 100 full-time and 35 part-time employees.
The dining room will occupy the 5,800-square-foot freight bay with 175 seats, a full bar and outside dining along the station platform.
The restaurant’s centerpiece will be the open display kitchen, where customers will be able to observe and interact with the staff.
Since announcing its intentions to establish a restaurant in Johnson City, Tupelo Honey Cafe opened new locations in Knoxville and Greenville, S.C., and plans to cut the ribbon on new sites in Chattanooga in September and Charlotte, N.C., in December.
With the opening of each eatery, Sims said Tupelo Honey brings with it a host of community service opportunities, most aimed at local schools.
“We’ve actually already met with members of the Johnson City educational system to discuss our hands-on education in schools and our teacher recognition program,” Sims said. “We usually adopt five elementary schools, and our culinary educator gives health-eating demonstrations to the children there.”
Owner Stephen Frabitore has already become a member of the Rails to Trails committee, which seeks to establish a pathway linking Johnson City and Elizabethton along an old railroad bed.
“We’re very excited to be a part of downtown, and to have a new location in the Tri-Cities,” Sims said. “It’s great to see all the restoration coming together down there.”