A well-known Knoxville restaurant with a distinctive Asian flair plans to bring that concept to downtown Maryville this spring.
The owners of Stir Fry Café are in the process of purchasing the former Roy’s Record Shop at 128 W. Broadway Ave.
Stir Fry Café is owned by a group of Knoxville investors. Co-owner Mark Rowan said the concept was started by the late restaurateur Kenny Siao in 1992 in the Bearden area. There are now Stir Fry Cafes in Turkey Creek, Johnson City, Kingsport and Asheville, N.C.
“This is our home market. It’s owned by an ownership group of Knoxville people, so they want to develop here. It’s a concept that has fared well in Knoxville, and we’ve been fortunate to expand it,” said Rowan. “Our hopes are to do the same thing in Maryville. We have always liked Blount County, and we think Maryville will be a good market. We’ve been looking for about a year. Now we think we have an opportunity downtown to put a nice little restaurant downtown.”
Rowan was quick to point out the purchase isn’t final yet. “It’s not a done deal. We have a letter of intent with Roy of Roy’s Record Shop on West Broadway Avenue,” he said. “It is strictly a letter of intent. We’re in the process of doing the due diligence. We’ll do site surveys and a building inspection and, assuming that goes well, we will close on the building.”
Rowan said he has October to do the due diligence and, barring unforeseen circumstances, they would close in late November or early December. “If everything goes as planned, the restaurant plans to open around the first of April,” he said.
Once open the restaurant will probably have 15 full-time employees and 35 part-time employees, he said.
The restaurant owner said what’s attractive about Stir Fry Cafe is Asian food has grown in popularity. It has gained popularity in the last eight, 10 to 12 years and continues to do so, he said.
Rowan said the restaurant has expanded their menu over the years to include all kinds of Asian recipes. “You’ll find a tremendous assortment of Thai dishes, but we have all kinds of Asian foods. We do lots of sushi. It’s a very youthful, eclectic, unique, local, independent eatery. We cater to all kinds of people, young and old,” he said.
Rowan said that in Johnson City and Asheville and some other locations, they offer entertainment on the weekends.
“We plan to do so in Maryville. We’ll definitely have Friday and Saturday night entertainment as we try to develop because of the younger, eclectic customer base we tend to attract,” he said. “We think expanding into an entertainment venue in a classy, professional way compliments our concept. It is something we’ve been successful with in other regions, and we hope we would be able to do so in Blount County and Maryville.”
Rowan said his restaurants offer great value on the meals it serves. “I think Asian food tends to be filling. There’s a good price value and, from a nutritional standpoint, it’s a good thing. It’s a type of food that has become more popular,” he said.
The restaurant owner said that the former Roy’s Record Shop building is a three-story, 15,000 square foot building. The plan would be to finish the street-level floor of 5,000 square feet with seating for 160. That would include a full bar, multiple dining areas and an entertainment venue as well, he said.
“Our architect has done a little work in the Maryville market, and we want to restore the façade of the existing build so it continues to look and feel as it always has,” said Rowan.
Rowan said he likes how the Sullivan’s restaurant across West Broadway Avenue looks. “They do well and did a good job modifying the space. We would hope to do something along those lines,” he said. “It would be updated and have something very classy. It would be a nice dining and entertainment venue for downtown.”
The restaurant owner said the bottom floor would be strictly storage. Future plans might include a banquet room or private dining room upstairs. “But plans are not to open that on Day One,” he said. “If things go well, and there’s a demand for it, we could finish that space up.”
Scott Osborn with R2R Studios in Hardin Valley is the architect for the project.
Rowan was excited about the design of the new store. “It’s going to be really slick We just opened up a location in downtown Kingsport that is very similar in size and age to the building we hope to get in Maryville,” he said. “They’re almost identical. It really came out nice, so we’ll use that as template to design the Maryville store.”
Rowan said the concept they’ve used in the most recent past has worked well in communities like Maryville. “It’s a market where they know we are coming in, and we’re accepted by the market. We’ve done well with very loyal customers,” he said.
Knoxville is so cluttered and overcrowded with restaurants, it’s a tough market for a new restaurant, Rowan said. “It’s not that we won’t continue to grow in Knoxville, but we’ve been looking at the periphery at markets that are self-contained, and we thought Maryville that fit that bill,” he said.
The restaurant owner said they also had the experience in Kingsport of stumbling over an old building in its downtown. “Kingsport courted us and wanted us really badly. We took a shot and have been very happy with the way the building turned out. We’ve been supported in a positive manner. Business is good. We thought Maryville fit that same opportunity,” he said. “Since we’re an eclectic, different concept, we liked taking old buildings and dressing them up and making them youthful and functional.”
Rowan said they really liked the Roy’s Record Shop structure in Maryville. “It’s a neat building that we fell in love with it when we first saw it,” he said.
The restaurant owner was impressed with the memorabilia they found. “We got up in the attic and down in the basement and stumbled over stuff. There were cut-outs of the Beatles you couldn’t have found in a million years,” he said.
Rowan enjoyed meeting Roy Garner, the owner of Roy’s Record Shop. “He was a great guy to deal with,” Rowan said.
To learn more about Stir Fry Café, visit www.stirfrycafe.com.