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Andy Marshall is the owner of Puckett's, which will be located in the former TGI Fridays spot near the Aquarium.
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Customers enjoy music at Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant in Nashville in this file photo.

About Puckett's

Owner: Andy Marshall
Started: 2004 in Leiper's Fork
Locations: Nashville, Franklin, Columbia and Chattanooga (by summer)
Menu: See menu items at www.puckettsgrocery.com/nashville/?pg=menu

 

Andy Marshall had hoped by now that Chattanoogans would be enjoying his signature blend of food and music at the newest Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant in downtown Chattanooga.

But like the slow-cooked meats that have helped make his restaurants a favorite in Middle Tennessee, Marshall says that retrofitting downtown buildings into new restaurant space takes time.

"It's never as quick or easy as you might like, but this is no different than any of the restaurants I've opened," Marshall said Wednesday, standing amid carpenters still building walls and ceilings for the newest Puckett's eatery. "I'm still convinced this is the ideal spot for us in Chattanooga. You couldn't handpick a better location in the heart of Chattanooga, right next to the Aquarium and the riverfront, to serve both the locals and tourists on vacation."

Marshall now hopes to have the 6,750-square-foot restaurant ready to open with a staff of 70 employees by late June "at best." As a replacement for the TGI Friday's restaurant that occupied the site at Market and East 1st streets for the past two decades, Marshall is confident Puckett's will be a bigger draw.

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A bloody mary from Puckett's

With menus boasting Southern heritage for breakfast, lunch and dinner and live music on stage every weekend -- and likely on many weekday nights in the future -- Marshall would like to grow the restaurant into a $4 million-a-year operation. Marshall has plucked the general manger from his successful Franklin location, Max Stephenson, to serve as general manager of the new Chattanooga store.

The restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days -- later on the weekends -- and will include live music every Friday and Saturday.

"We'd like to add even more live music during the week, depending upon demand," Marshall said.

The typical breakfast at Puckett's cost $9 and below; luncheon fares average $11 and below, and dinner meals are typically around $18. When top music acts are playing on the weekends, Puckett's also usually has a cover charge of $8 to $12 -- "all of which goes to the artists and help us get some really quality acts," Marshall said.

Puckett's build its business on burgers and barbecue and other Southern offshoots, such as its redneck burrito (barbecue, beans and slaw wrapped in a grilled burrito) or the piggy mac (macaroni and cheese, barbecue and smoked blue cheese cooked in an iron skillet).

He's investing $900,000 to retrofit the former TGIFriday's, which closed last October, into a main dining area with 120 seats in front of a stage, and a separate 80-seat room that can be used for either special events or overflow. Chattanooga was identified as a prime market for expansion during the company's annual "Puckett Summit" when business leaders plot their strategy for the next year.

The Chattanooga Puckett's will be the fourth for Marshall since the "retired" Piggly Wiggly grocery executive bought a small grocery and diner in Leiper's Fork in Williamson County in 2004 as a "retirement project." As the restaurant grew -- and musical artists starting drawing crowds -- Marshall moved on to bigger sites and now operates other Puckett's in Nashville, Franklin and Columbia, Tenn.

Each of the four Puckett's is in a downtown building without parking. But unlike chain restaurants that often locate in the suburbs with lots of parking, Puckett's are unique and preserve both the buildings where they are housed and the Southern, slow-cooked meals they serve.

Puckett's outdoor smokers where most of the meats are cooked should alert prospective customers when the restaurant opens.

"You should be able to smell what we're cooking -- that's all part of the atmosphere," Marshall said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com at or 757-6340.

 

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