Tupelo Honey Cafe opened Monday in downtown Johnson City, and while the investment is important for the restaurant itself, it should also benefit the entire downtown area.
The century-old CC&O railroad depot in Johnson City sat dusty for years before Tupelo Honey Cafe came along to revamp it.
Greg Cox, owner of the depot, says the restaurant wanted to maintain the building's historic charm. "We didn't paint any of the wood out here. We left it kind of open. I spent a lot of money figuring out how to insulate in there, so outside we could keep the same roofline the porch had," he says.
Cox says the restaurant brings interest to the building, but even better, it brings more people to the downtown area.
Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin says he's excited to see the depot functioning again. "This type of investment creates a huge amount of interest in our downtown, and our hope is that it will serve as a cascade for other businesses coming in and developing and building the city back in its core the way it used to be," he says.
Tupelo Honey's goal is to encourage more people to take a stroll downtown. "They really believe in urban renewal and the downtown feeling, kind of getting back to more of a community feel," Cox says.
That community feel may be what it takes to bring downtown Johnson City back to life. "Since the 1970s, the downtown district has gradually gone downhill. We're really happy to see this increased investment in downtown," Van Brocklin says.
So far, customers are impressed by the restoration. J.R. Moore says, "Somebody has done a really great job. Somebody's been a real genius on the design of it. It's really excellent, and it's going to be great for Johnson City."
Tupelo Honey is starting with limited hours for the first two weeks, so right now they are open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Then, starting Monday, June 30, they'll go to a full schedule. Those hours will be Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.; and Sunday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.