The last few years have been extremely busy for Shelby Banner.
Three years ago, while attending her first year of college, she had her first child. This past year she married and graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in chemistry, and now, she’s been tasked with bringing the decades-old family business to Johnson City.
“It’s been a lot, but I’m excited to be where I am now,” Banner said Friday from the seating area of the Simply Delicious Café & More, as delivery drivers piled boxes at her feet.
Banner’s parents, Larry and Lori Slipek, moved to Bluff City and opened the original Simply Delicious Café in Bristol in 1993 at 2600 Volunteer Parkway, about a half-mile from the speedway.
Since then, Banner said the New York-style delicatessen has earned its fair share of regular customers and has developed a sizeable following.
After more than 20 years of success, the family looked to Johnson City, and more specifically, the former Universal Wine & Spirits space at 1736 W. State of Franklin Road, across from the Earth Fare shopping center, to open a second location.
“Our realtor suggested this place, and we just fell in love with it,” Banner said. “It was the perfect setup, the walk-in cooler was already here, and we’re so close to campus.”
Positioned between the college and the Johnson City Medical Center, Banner said there should be no problem drawing in hungry customers.
Following the established Bristol model, Simply Delicious in Johnson City will aim for the lunch and dinner crowds with gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads primarily at lunch and chicken wings and draft and bottled beers in the evening.
Boar’s Head meats and cheeses are used for all the deli’s signature sandwiches, which Banner said provides high-quality ingredients and taste.
Alongside recognizable staples on the menu like the Reuben and the tuna melt, are personalized creations like the Crabby Carolyn, a concoction of turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and tarragon mayo on a toasted wheat roll topped with crab salad.
Banner said some of the café’s more interesting and popular offerings were created by regular customers or employees who are now immortalized on the menu.
“We’ve always been all about the customers,” she said. “When there was something that a regular customer would come in and order every single day, and we tried it and thought it was good, we’d put it on the menu with their names on it.”
The new location opens up a new market for customers, all of them potential creators of new namesake sandwiches.
Joining Banner as the general manager of the new eatery is lifelong friend and Simply Delicious Bristol employee Cassidy Rutledge.
“I’ve worked for Simply Delicious since I was 14 at the other location,” Rutledge said. “And we’ve been friends since elementary school. We work well together, so we thought we’d find a time and have a go at it.”
The new deli is aiming for a mid-week opening this week, either Wednesday or Thursday, Banner said.