Butcher Shop/Deli/Market Coming to Old City

Jeffrey in His Kitchen, 209 South Central Street, Knoxville, December 2018

And so, the final question in the series of articles is answered: Chef Jeffrey DeAlejandro will retain his lease at the current location of OliBea at 119 South Central Street. He’ll move OliBea a couple of blocks to the south this summer and, after a brief construction period, he will open a new business at the 119 location.

His plans offer an interesting insight into planning and sustaining a business. He told me this concept was one he’d had before he opened OliBea, but the margins on a butcher shop and deli are very thin, so he felt opening a restaurant made more sense at the time.

A number of variables have changed since he opened OliBea, however, and he feels those changes make this the right time to open the business he’d originally considered. First, and most obviously, the Old City is different now. A number of new restaurants have opened, the population has grown and it is poised to grow rapidly in the coming months. That makes a low-margin business more likely to succeed.

The other element that comes into play is that he is well-known and has developed relationships with many of the other restaurants and farms in the area. He’s also listened to his customers over the last four years and that has allowed him to fine-tune his concept in order to make it more likely to be profitable.

Chef Jeffrey DeAlejandro, OliBea, 119 S. Central, Knoxville, December 2014

To one side in the new shop will be a butcher counter and meat case. He plans to have a range of locally and regionally produced beef, pork, lamb and chicken, using the relationships he’s developed. You’ll be able to purchase ham, bacon and sausage and more. He’s had numerous customers ask about the availability of the meats he’s used at OliBea and now they’ll be able to buy them from him. He’ll also offer quality cheeses in the same manner.

Customers will not only be able to buy the meat to take home for preparation, they’ll be able to purchase quality charcuterie boards made by the experienced partner he’s bringing aboard. This is also where the relationships with other restaurants comes in: He’ll be able to supply many of them with their charcuterie boards, thereby not having to depend on walk-in business alone.

The meat and cheese being what he uses at OliBea, he can also supply his own restaurant, meaning that the operation should work together very nicely and give the business a good running start it would not have had four years ago. With a partner, he can leave the operation of this shop to focus on the larger OliBea just down the street. And conversely, anything you enjoy at OliBea, you should be able to snag at the market.

As for the deli and market, he’s picturing a New York Style deli where those same meats and cheeses have been made into great, fresh sandwiches and soups available for grab-and-go. He will offer foods based on what he can get that is fresh at the time, so the menu will rotate. There will likely be a few seats in the revamped space, but the emphasis will be clearly on dropping in and getting what you need for lunch or dinner.

Is there a resemblance?, Jeffrey Dealejandro, Pretentious Glass, Knoxville, January 2018

Is there a resemblance?, Jeffrey Dealejandro, Pretentious Glass, Knoxville, January 2018

“People have told me for a long time what they want and I have listened. They want to buy the grits and cheeses and more that I use and small restaurant owners want pre-made charcuterie.” Now, he feels, he is ready to meet that demand and that the demand is such that it will support the new shop.

As he did with OliBea, he’ll start slow and add more products as the demand grows. He hopes, for example, to add a seafood program eventually, starting with orders for the fish and seafood that he can get fresh. Expect to see this and other changes as the market and deli sides grow into what can be sustained at this point in downtown Knoxville. If all goes well, he said it would be great if that eventually needed a larger location, just like OliBea.

OliBea to Move

209 South Central Street, Knoxville, December 2018

Sometimes problems produce exciting opportunities. Such is the case with Jeffrey DeAlejandro and OliBea. The successful breakfast spot, which I first wrote about four years ago tomorrow, has outgrown its space. “Sometimes there is an hour-and-a-half wait on a weekend,” Jeffrey said recently.

There’s a pretty hard limit of around 30 for a seating and what was once enough, is no longer adequate. While sales have tripled in the four years, they’ve had to turn down catering because they simply can’t keep up with demand. Fortunately, there is an answer.

As I reported last Friday, Jeffrey has purchased a building at 209/211 South Central and built a home on the top two stories. The remaining space on the main floor at 211 will become the new OliBea. It will be a game-changer for the restaurant. Where now he operates out of a residential-grade refrigerator, at the new location he’ll have walk-in storage, a full kitchen and a proper prep room.

Jeffrey in His Kitchen, 209 South Central Street, Knoxville, December 2018

Seating for the new restaurant will be about 45-to-fifty. He’ll also expand the menu and drinks. He will offer a small beer selection, which will include two different Pretentious beers on tap at all times and a small selection of wines. The new location will get all new equipment and with the new capacity, he feels he’ll be able to cater without stressing staff and facility capacity.

There will also be a patio on the south side of the building with some external seating and that area will be dog friendly, which is handy, given the proximity to the dog park. That side of the building will also feature a walk-up window for grab-and-go items like a muffin and coffee. It should be handy for people who are headed to or from the dog park. Speaking of muffins, you should find a range of pastries and breads to complement a full coffee program featuring espressos, cappuccinos and other coffee drinks.

The bottom floor, as you might surmise, has the same footprint as the floor you saw photographed of his home. The area totals about 1700 square feet and the build-out will be done by R2R. The Courtland Group has done the design. Jeffrey says you should expect it to feel familiar. “OliBea is still the heart of it, look of it and vibe.”

OliBea, 119 S. Central, Knoxville, December 2014

The space also offers additional opportunities. While the hours should be similar to what you’ve come to expect at the other location and he has no intention of doing regular dinner service, you can expect some delightful evening dining there as the spirit moves.

I hope to do some evening events. I enjoyed what I’ve done with Sapphire. It will be occasional weekends with a special menu. Right now, I’m inspired by Italian. We’ll have a special menu, two seatings with tickets. I’m also interested in Appalachian cuisine . . .

You should expect the new restaurant to open in late spring or early summer. At that point, the old OliBea will close, leaving that location available for what comes next. What comes next is a very exciting service for downtown. I’ll have all the details on that tomorrow.

Downtown Knoxville Ten Day Planner (12/9 – 12/18/2018)

If you want to be certain your event is included on this calendar, I’ll need your event two weeks in advance. The absolute best way to make sure I include your event is to make a FB event and invite me – two weeks in advance. My FB “events” are the … [Continue reading]

Chef Jeffrey DeAlejandro of OliBea (and family) Have a Cool New Urban Home

Chef Jeffrey and I had talked about the small, unassuming building he'd purchased across from the downtown dog park for at least a couple of years. He'd invited me to lunch in his new home for food and conversation and a look at the new space. As I … [Continue reading]

Old North Victorian Home Tour 2018, Part Two

This is a continuation of the Old North Victorian Holiday Home Tour. You'll find the first part here. The tour continued at 122 Leonard with the first Craftsman home on this year's tour. Built just a little later (this one in 1915), these homes … [Continue reading]