Day job

Sun set to rise on Sun Up Diner

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By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

When day dawns on June 25, the sunrise will also offer a new dining experience for Blount County early risers. The Sun Up Diner is scheduled to open that morning in the former Bellacino’s building on West Broadway Avenue.

Michelle Haynes is opening the restaurant with the help of her husband, Jerry, and family friend Fran Bennett. The restaurant hours are tentatively scheduled for 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Haynes says the restaurant will have a split personality. Those customers wanting a quick breakfast or lunch item will be directed to one side for lighter fare such items such as sandwiches, pastries and specialty coffees.

The other side of the diner will be a full service restaurant. "The lighter side is the right side for those on the go," Michelle said. The other side of the diner is for those who want to take it slow, she said.

The restaurant will have a full breakfast menu with such items as Eggs Benedict and popovers. Everything on both the lunch and breakfast menu will be homemade, the owners said. "We want to have the best breakfast in town," Michell said. "The chef is a (Hurricane) Katrina transplant from New Orleans."

When people enter the restaurant, they’ll experience full-service and pampering, said the owners. "I think service is going to be our main thing," said Michelle. "We want people to feel pampered."

Michelle, Jerry and Fran say the endeavor has been a walk of faith for the three of them.

Michelle said they’ve learned that with God, every challenge is best described as "impossible," "difficult" or "done."

"We’re through ‘impossible.’ We’re in the ‘difficult,’ and we want to get to ‘done,’ " she said. "We believe it’s possible."

Getting everything ready has been hard because the three are in this venture because of the food. The desire to open a
restaurant comes from a love of good food, said Michelle. "We love to cook. We have a passion for food. It’s the construction part that’s killing us."

The idea for Sun Up Diner came about in 2000 when a friend of Michelle’s suggested she open a restaurant. While searching for the right building, she watched as the former Bellocino’s building at 1720 West Broadway Ave., came available earlier this year. The friend with the big idea asked to be a silent partner and invested in helping her start the restaurant with her husband and Bennett. They took possession of the building at the end of February.

"This is a start, and he would like to have another one a year down the road," Michelle Haynes said.

Jerry Haynes said he will be happy when construction is done, and the business can open. "I’m looking forward to having somewhere to go where I get good food and can relax," he said.

The restaurant has 2,000 square feet in the back and 1,600 square feet in the front. The previous restaurant was set up for pizza and ice cream, so changes had to be made in the facility, Jerry said.

They are investing $100,000 in the facility, and there will be more than $42,000 invested just in new kitchen equipment, Michelle said.

The trio is putting a lot of sweat equity into the building as well, often doing jobs themselves to save money. "They (contractors) wanted $4,000 to paint (the exterior) so me, Fran and Dave (Bennett) went out, and we painted for three days," said Jerry. The outside "demolition" took a lot of sweat as well.

"We took 4,000 pounds to the dump," said Michelle. "We had to re-drywall everything."

Fran Bennett said she’s enjoyed learning the process of opening the restaurant. "I’ve learned to use power tools. That’s what I want for Mothers Day," she said with a laugh. "It’s been a blessing."

When not working at the restaurant, Jerry Haynes is an air-traffic controller. Michelle previously worked as an events coordinator for Massey Electric, and Fran Bennett was a florist.

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