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Buddy’s on track for November opening

Buddy’s bar-b-q in Clinton plans to be open by mid-November, the company’s chief executive said this week as construction of the building nears completion.

“We’re looking at an early- to mid-November opening,” said Mark Lemoncelli, CEO of the Knoxville-based chain. “It’s hard to say until we get the building, so I’m guessing on that. Our goal is to be open for the holidays, no later than the 15th.”

And as work continues on the structure, its owners are still looking for tenants to take three other retail spaces available in what is called Retail Building I of the 23-acre Glen Alpine Mixed-Use Retail Development, at 2200-2206 N. Charles G. Seivers Blvd. It’s next door to where a Shell gas station/convenience store and Baskin-Robbins ice cream store once stood, and where a second retail building is planned next.

The building housing Buddy’s has a total of 7,800 square feet, of which about 3,650 square feet is taken up by the barbecue restaurant. The other three spaces in the building so far have no tenants signed, said Andy Hillmer, one of the developers of the center and principal broker for Southern Commercial Real Estate in Knoxville.

Hillmer said Friday that the building would be finished in August, and the three additional spaces have 1,300, 1,235 and 1,606 square feet each. The lease terms shown on Southern Commercial’s website are for five years at a rate of $26 per square foot annually for the first two, and $30 for the largest space, which sits on the end of the building opposite the Buddy’s.

On its website ( Southern Commercial says of the site: “Glen Alpine Mixed Use Development consists of 23 acres located at N. Charles G. Seivers Blvd. and Glen Alpine Dr. in Clinton, TN less than a mile from I-75. Development will include two retail buildings and restaurant/retail out parcels fronting Charles Seivers Blvd. along with box retail/office/industrial/multi-family lots for sale.

“Traffic count at the site is over 31k/cars per day and site is surrounded by restaurants, retail, medical, office, banks, hotels and at the entrance to the I-75 industrial park. Clinton is a booming market located 25 minutes from downtown Knoxville and fast growing in population and all types of industry.”

Hillmer said earlier that he had nearly signed Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen for a space in the development, but that the chicken restaurant chain had pulled out during the early days of the coronavirus lockdown, and was no longer interested in coming to Clinton.

As for Buddy’s, when it opens in November it will be the 18th location for the barbecue chain, which was founded in 1972 by Buddy Smothers and his wife, LaMuriel. The first Buddy’s was on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville.

Buddy’s, whose closest locations to Clinton now are in Oak Ridge and Powell, 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.

Lemoncelli, whose wife Jaime Smothers Lemoncelli is the granddaughter of Buddy Smothers, bought the Buddy’s bar-b-q operations from the Smothers family on Feb. 1, 2019.

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.

The company will be opening its 17th store in The Pinnacle shopping center in Bristol, Tennessee, in August or early September. That store and the new Clinton location are among what will be 13 company-owned stores. There also are some franchised locations, with a new one of those planned for Hixson in the Chattanooga area later this year, making it the 19th Buddy’s store.

As for Clinton, Lemoncelli said the new store manager will begin training in mid-July, and that the location will eventually have “30 to 40 employees, depending on volume [of sales].”

“Everything is on track [for Clinton),” he said.