Think Buddy’s bar-b-q.
That’s what’s coming to Clinton next summer as the Knoxville-based fast-casual barbecue chain opens its first location north of Powell on a site between the two Shell stations on Charles G. Seivers Boulevard, less than a half-mile west of Interstate 75’s Exit 122.
Buddy’s bar-b-q owner Mark Lemoncelli confirmed plans for the Clinton store on Monday after developer Andy Hillmer of Knoxville told the Courier News that Buddy’s would be the first tenant of the new retail center being developed at the site.
“We’re excited to be making our way into the Clinton market,” Lemoncelli said. “We hope we’ll be well received.”
Buddy’s, which was started in Knoxville in 1972 by the late Buddy Smothers and his wife, Lamuriel, is known for its barbecued pork and chicken, as well as its ribs and lemon ice-box pie.
It’s also differentiated from other barbecue restaurants by its drive-through window, which will also be a feature of the Clinton store, Lemoncelli said.
The store will have a staff of about 30, with about half of those full-time employees, he said.
There will be about 3,600 square feet of space, with room for about 90 diners inside, and three or four tables on an outdoor patio, he said.
The menu will be the same as that of other Knoxville-area Buddy’s locations, Lemoncelli said. That will include beef brisket, which is being added back to the Knoxville-area menu in January, he added.
Buddy’s currently has 15 locations open in East Tennessee, including 11 company-owned stores and four franchised locations. The company recently opened its first store in the Chattanooga area, a franchised operation in East Ridge. That same franchisee group also owns a Buddy’s in Sevierville and is readying another location in Cleveland, Tennessee, which will open in November, Lemoncelli said.
Lemoncelli, whose wife Jaime Smothers Lemoncelli is the granddaughter of founder Buddy Smothers, bought the Buddy’s bar-b-q operations from the Smothers family on Feb. 1.
Mark Lemoncelli also is owner of the two Jason’s Deli restaurants in Knoxville. A native of New Jersey, he moved to Knoxville in 1995 at age 18 to attend the University of Tennessee, and has been in the city ever since, he said. His mother, father and sister also have moved here, and his father, James Lemoncelli, and sister, Lisa Edwards, are partners with him in Buddy’s bar-b-q.
He said one of his first goals as the new owner of Buddy’s was to expand to Clinton.
“We kind of think it’s a great outlying area that’s never had a Buddy’s, and to me it’s a spot I definitely wanted to open a store,” he said. “It’s definitely a great area.”
Hillmer said the new retail center’s ownership group, Blackhorse, plans to break ground on the Buddy’s building early next year.
Lemoncelli said the shell building will be turned over to Buddy’s to finish out the interior and get ready for opening about mid-summer 2020.
At least one and maybe two more tenants for the Blackhorse property will be signed in the near future, Hillmer said, but none has yet committed.
Neither of those will be Chick-fil-A, however, which most likely will not be ready to commit to a Clinton location before Blackhorse fills its open locations, Hillmer said – if, in fact, Chick-fil-A ever does decide to move into Clinton.
In the meantime, though, Clinton, Norris and Andersonville residents can look forward to Buddy’s bar-b-q opening its first local store, where all-you-can-eat ribs are on the menu every Saturday.
For more information about Buddy’s, see buddysbarbq.com, or visit the Powell location at 404 East Emory Road.