50’s style diner opens in Washington County, TN amid pandemic; owner gifted building to follow dream

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SULPHUR SPRINGS, Tenn. (WJHL) – The pandemic has taken a toll on small business owners, and opening a business during this time has proven incredibly difficult.

Small business owners are struggling with some even being forced to close their doors for good, but others are using this as an opportunity to open for the first time.

JJ’s Diner is one business working to make a name for itself amid a pandemic. The diner is located at 1301 Gray Station Sulphur Springs Road in a building owned by Richard Tucker, a local contractor.

Tucker said he frequents the Black Olive restaurant in Jonesborough, and that’s where he met Joy Jack, who used to be a manager there. Tucker told News Channel 11 that he saw something special in her.

“I was watching Joy and how she works and her work ethic and how friendly she was, and I just told her I had what I thought she needed. She said ‘What do you have?’ and I told her I had a restaurant and she said her dream was always to own a 50’s style restaurant, and I said ‘Well I’ve got what you need right out in the country,'” said Tucker.

After some initial shock and some deep thought regarding the idea of opening a restaurant, Jack and her husband decided to go for it.

While the idea was first mentioned in the final months of 2019, it wasn’t until after the new year started that they officially started work on the building and getting the diner up and running.

Jack’s idea for a 50’s theme diner was inspired by her father, she said. “He raised me with 50’s music, Elvis, old movies, all sorts of things. He passed away in 1997, but this is all kind of in memory of him,” said Joy Jack, the owner of JJ’s Diner.

They said they were ready to open in March, but the pandemic had other plans. However, they never gave up and were able to hold a soft opening in July, followed by their grand opening on August 20th.

“You’re going to have kinks, you’re going to have issues, but all in all, it will work out how it’s supposed to. It really will if you let it,” said Jack.

While they’ve only been open a short time, they’ve seen a good amount of business and say it’s getting better every day. But to the owners, JJ’s Diner is more than just a place to stop and grab a bite.

“Food is something that brings everybody together. What we really strive for is to have people come in as customers, but leave as either friends or even family sometimes,” said Bryan Bowen, Owner of JJ’s Diner and Jack’s husband.

Although opening a small business during the pandemic can be tough, they encourage others not to let the obstacles stop you from achieving your goals.

“It feels right. It feels like we’re on the right track and we’re learning things every day and it’s great,” said Bowen.

The new diner is also Tennessee Pledge compliant. They sanitize everything and don’t leave any items on the table.

At first, they sat every other booth to promote social distancing, according to Bowen. They also have a web-based clock-in program that asks employees COVID-19 symptom-related questions before they clock in, on top of taking temperatures of all staff members prior to each shift.

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