After nineteen years as a south Knoxville institution at 133 Moody Avenue, Frussie’s Deli and Sandwich Shoppe is moving to 722. S. Gay Street, which some of you may recognize as the current location of the Laurel Mountain Eatery, which has resided at that address under Cook Loft for the last eight years. In a situation that seems to include a bit of good news for everyone, Laura Ann Henke, who owns Laurel Mountain with her husband, told me after twenty years of owning various businesses, they are moving on to a new venture in the form of Idle Hour Farm and Retreat in Rogersville. She said her customers have been great and business has been very good, but it’s time for a change. Their tentative final day is April 17.
I slipped out of downtown to have lunch and take a look around at Frussie’s to see what we might expect. I ordered a Tuna Melt sandwich, which owner Jay Brandon made me for me before joining me at the table for a conversation about the business and his plans for the new location. He told me he’s gone to downtown his whole life and impressed me not only with his memories of its bleaker years, but also with his knowledge of the development happening in various corners of the city.
He talked about the four years he’s owned the business on Moody avenue and described its ups and downs. He said the Henley Bridge closure didn’t really impact him in a negative way. He said, if anything, the detour, which moved more cars than ever through Moody Avenue helped him. He does point to other variables, however, which haven’t had so much of an up side. He pointed across the street where the Big Lots closed. Beside it a bank had closed and a check-cashing business moved in. He said the closure of Baptist Hospital hurt his business quite a bit.
Interestingly, he said the downtown resurgence has hurt, in a way. He pointed out that there is little reason for anyone to leave downtown and travel to south Knoxville to eat. He hopes some of that will change with the new development on the south waterfront, but he wants to move into a spot benefiting from the urban resurgence to his north. And he plans to shift the style of the deli a bit when it moves to Gay Street, giving it more of a New York deli feel.
The menu you see photographed here will retain some of the deli basics, but he’s adding menu items in honor of his location. He also plans to be open for breakfast, with tentative hours of 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Saturday. Of the breakfast menu, he said it will be different from Pete’s diner style and from Oli Bea’s more upscale eat-in menu – which he said he’s really enjoying. His idea is to have quick-service food that can be grabbed on the way to work or elsewhere. He’ll bake fresh croissants, bread pastries and English muffins. He currently fresh-bakes eleven varieties of bread from scratch each day. He mentioned homemade cinnamon rolls. He also roasts his own meat for lunch.
Being downtown will give him new opportunities. He’ll have foot traffic, for example, which he didn’t have on Moody. He said he’s looking forward to buying what he’s able to secure from the Market Square Farmers’ Market. He is excited about opening on Saturday, which is something he never felt would work on Moody. He plans special menu variations on Saturday perhaps including “my grandmother’s pancakes.” He also mentioned the possibility of offering baking classes on Sundays.
He will close the south Knoxville location on May 1 and hopes to be open at the new location on June 1, though he acknowledged there may be unanticipated challenges which might delay that goal. Meanwhile, check out Frussie’s Facebook Page and go ahead and give them a “like” just to say, “welcome to downtown.”