Joe Yates understands marketing and the importance of a big kickoff. So it may come as a surprise that he and his wife, Patty, chose to open their new downtown eatery, Joe's Downtown Market, with very little fanfare.
"We wanted to be able to open up and iron out as many wrinkles as possible," said Yates, who chose to avoid long lines and disgruntled customers by choosing a 'soft' opening. "There is a big difference between the appliance and furniture business and the restaurant business. But I've seen others open up and I've listened to what people have said about why (those restaurants) didn't work for them."
According to the feedback Yates received, the top three reasons for the failure of a new restaurant are poor food quality, a long wait or receiving the wrong food.
By choosing the finest and freshest ingredients, Yates eliminated the first problem.
"We are buying the best food they put out, so there won't be a problem with the quality of the food," said Yates. "The rest is up to our staff. My job is to pat you on the back and say 'hello' and try to figure out how to make (your experience) better."
Located across the street from General Appliance and Furniture and an easy walk from Veterans Square, Joe's Downtown Market is tucked between General Appliance's satellite showrooms.
The Yates have played up the appeal of the historic building, while offering a fresh look. The new space is a destination that boasts the easy atmosphere of a neighborhood hangout.
The restaurant is open from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., offering breakfast items, fresh fruit, sandwiches, soups, salads, sweets, fruit cups and other snacks.
The menu's signature item -- the steamed sandwich -- hails from Joe's college days.
"When I was at Knoxville, there were two places that offered steamed sandwiches," said Yates. "One of those places was literally 100 yards from my dorm room. (Here in Dyersburg), Hamilton's had a steamed sandwich and I wanted to bring back some of that flavor."
Along with the menu's distinct flavor, those who stop in also receive a warm welcome from Joe, Patty, and the staff at Joe's Downtown Market.
"We've been fortunate. Patty and I have been able to travel a lot with our kids," said Yates, who said the restaurants they have enjoyed most -- even in big cities -- are restaurants with a neighborhood appeal. "We wanted to service the people who work downtown -- and those who would like to come downtown. But we also know one other thing. We want it to be more than just a restaurant. We have wi-fi available, so you can just hang out and see who else comes in the door."
In addition to good, quality food, Joe's offers a variety of furniture items, accessories, wall art, Yankee candles, Christmas decorations, college football accessories and a sample of goods from other local merchants.
On Fridays throughout the Christmas season, local musician Joseph LeMay will play in Joe's front room.
"We want people to come in and be able to buy accessories, wall art, or a bag of potato chips," said Yates. "We also have products from Pennington Seed and Supply and Bad Bob's to help our local entrepreneurs."
Yates, who serves as president of the Downtown Dyersburg Merchants' Association, said the members of the organization have long been interested in drawing more businesses to the downtown district.
"The one thing that everybody says is that we need more businesses downtown," said Yates. "And, here lately, that we need somewhere else to eat. (We chose to do this) to fulfill a need, and to put our money where our mouth is. We'll throw that idea on the wall and see if it sticks. I'm self-serving. I know the more people I bring into this place, the more will walk across the street. The more businesses -- even furniture stores -- we have downtown, the more people will come. Whether I sell anything or not, we want downtown Dyersburg to succeed for us and for everybody."
Yates said he and Patty have been working on the concept for the restaurant for approximately nine months. Once they began the actual construction, the process took about six weeks.
"My wife has been the overseer, an instrumental part of making the menu what it is," said Yates. "We try to put out a good product at a good price. My supplier says I am too cheap, but I'd rather have repeat business and let someone see they got a fair price."