Street Eats Vendor Jordan Banks Works 9 to 5… At Night

The sky glares orange and red, and the sun sneaks past the horizon. After a long day of working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., most people crank the stove to start cooking dinner. Some collapse on their bed after the day’s struggles.

Jordan Banks, however, has work to do.

Street lights flood the area as Banks hauls longest-standing late-night food cart of Johnson City, TN, Street Eats, to his usual ally between Capones and The Hideaway.

It is 26 degrees outside; two degrees less, and Banks may have considered staying home for the night.

“I’m pretty hardcore,” said Banks. “That consistency is what people appreciate.”

Banks relaxes after setting his restaurant up on the sidewalk.

He pulls out his phone, which reads 10:27 p.m. Street Eats opens in three minutes. From now until he closes at 5 a.m., he will top over 200 hotdogs.

Late-night crowds arrive to downtown Johnson City, packing the clubs and hovering around the bar waiting for another drink. Banks readies the cart for the bars’ aftermath of customers, all hungry after guzzling an unknown amount of beer.

A few minutes pass, and several customers stop by to order a Fritos Pie Dog, the bestseller. Others go a different route and order the Jalapeno Popper and watch as Banks tops the quarter-pound dog with cream cheese.

“Cream cheese on a hot dog sounds crazy,” said Banks. “But people go insane over it. Street Eats steps up the game with what you can put on a hotdog. Street Eats goes a more premium route and tries to get the best of the best. They aren’t the kind you get at a gas station.”

It is midnight now, and Banks fills the toppings to the brim after wiping down his work station. For the last hour and a half, he jam-packed 40 hotdogs.

He recalls a time when he was not the only vendor of Street Eats. Banks and his high school friend, Matt Oerly, began running the food cart in March 2012 after both getting laid-off from Omar Awnings.

Oerly’s brother and wife, Sam and Tess Oerly, bought the food cart as a “leap of faith” and trained Banks and Oerly so they could run the hotdog stand together.

Banks admires Tess’s talent for creating recipes for which customers return.

“Tess has a genius mind for coming up with the menu,” said Banks. “There have been very few adjustments to it. The [original] menu has stayed almost the same the entire time.”

The Oerlys finalized the hotdog menu, which consists of nine original dogs, not counting seasonal hotdogs such as the Monster Mash that customers relish during Halloween.

“The Monster Mash is a specialty,” said regular customer Chelsea O’Brien. “And now when Jordan sees me, he tells me ahead of time when he’s going to have mashed potatoes out.”

Matt Oerly worked the food cart alongside Banks until he graduated college four years later, leaving Banks to vend shifts by himself.

“The busiest hours were at the very end of the night from approximately 2:30-4 a.m.” he said. “The only nights that really felt long were the nights when we were not busy [because] there weren’t many people downtown.”

Friday night emerges, and Banks awaits the downtown demand. Several people linger by, reading the menu and sporting furrowed brows.

Banks fills six more hotdogs with various toppings while laughing along to the customers’ anecdotes. He beams as the last person strolls away while chomping down on hotdog 85 of the night.

“The downtown late-night crowd is what I’m committed to,” said Banks. “80 to 90 percent of my customers are regulars. They have shown so much support and love, and I’m really thankful for them.”

Banks wipes a dollop of sour cream from the table top. Most containers are almost empty again, so he replenishes the toppings.

Towels pile up in a bucket behind him, and the counter gleams under full containers of Fritos, pickles and onions. Banks recognizes O’Brien sauntering toward Street Eats with her usual group.

“I eat at Street Eats about five times a month,” O’Brien said. “It started as a drunk going-out food that was available out of convenience when I was leaving the bars, but then I started wanting them for lunch in the middle of the day.”

O’Brien says her temporary goodbyes to Banks as he reaches for a clean towel to swipe across the counter. His toppings dwindled within the past 30 minutes, so he sprinkles handfuls more into the tubs. He hotdog count stands at 115 before the 3 a.m. rush.

Voices and laughter echo off the surrounding brick walls. Banks checks the time. It is 3:07 a.m., and the bars close for the night. Banks anticipates working another rush alone. He curls his lips upward at the sight of multiple groups heading his way.

It is showtime.

“It’s not hard work,” said Banks. “It’s just a lot of work. I love it, and I am going to ride it out for as long as I can. I’m not getting rich or anything, but I support me and my family.”

The cash register propels open between glove changes, and Banks presents hotdog after hotdog to customers. He uses the back of his hand to clear debris from the table and smothers a Rebel Yell Dog with sriracha chili sauce before handing it to a single customer standing before him.

Hotdog 219 claims last place. Another successful night.

Lids top the containers, and a garbage bag bursts with waste. Banks trudges to the dumpster and notices a glow in the sky. It is 5:34 a.m., and the sky breaks into an array of purple.

After a long night of sleep, most people are waking up for another day’s work.

Jordan Banks, however, has sleep to catch.

Setting the Stage: Wild Wing Café Hosts a Night of Old-School Rock

Groups of all ages rocked and rolled into Johnson City’s Wild Wing Café on Feb. 17 to watch Rusty Steele and Quarter Bounce pulsate the stage past midnight.

Originating from Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, the Gun N’ Roses tribute band classify as a classic rock band, but they accept requests from show-goers and even play a little bit of country music.

Sarah Goodpaster, the restaurant’s marketing and promotions manager who runs the show from Knoxville, networks and coordinates these events to the last chord. Goodpaster remains on the constant hunt for music groups and entertainers to keep the performances rolling.

“Some events take weeks or months of planning,” she said. “Other events like booking tribute bands are a phone call. Then, I start promoting and marketing the events.”

While arranging events proves time-consuming, Goodpaster ensures the show goes on every week at both the Knoxville and Johnson City locations for the Wild Wing Café.

“When it comes to this profession, [one must be] creative and very detail-oriented,” Goodpaster said. “I love live music and love being able to have a bit of creative freedom and, above all, having a good time. I get to throw a party every weekend”

Goodpaster set the stage for a full house, and the Wild Wing Café management fulfilled the crowd’s expectations by scheduling experienced staff to work entertainment nights.

“I don’t get too stressed out [by the crowds],” said Drew Reardon, a bar manager at the Wild Wing Café. “I’ve been in this business for 30 years. When you are staffed properly and train your staff, that’s the best way to prepare for these events.”

Employees scrambled to meet the needs of the crowd, waltzing within the bar confines or zigzagging through tight-knit friend circles and tables. The kitchen kept busy, clanging plates and glasses, while sending the waiters and waitresses with a pile of food and drinks.

After gulping down a couple of beers and inhaling wings, folks of all ages surged the dance floor as soon as Rusty Steele and Quarter Bounce broke out with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

Mallory Garrison, a frequent guest at the Wild Wing Café, guzzled the last drops of her beer to join the dance crowd.

“It’s like a constant party,” Garrison said over the live music. “It’s a getaway from my job and from everything else that stresses me.”

Rusty Steele and Quarter Bounce serenaded the audience until the night grew short, and the audience dwindled at the show’s end.

Customers called taxis or tagged along with friends when closing time approached, leaving the sports pub with sticky fingers and a smile.

“We want to give our guests more than they expect and have them leave Wild Wing Café with more than a full belly,” Goodpaster said. “We want our guests to leave with a memory.”

Serving Jonesborough: From Nurse to Bistro Owner

Graduation season approaches, and students anticipate potential careers. Prospective alumni scramble for final letters of recommendation in hopes of embarking on entry-level employment, but are professions finalized once one launches a career?

Not for 37-year-old former registered nurse Kinsey Holliday.

Originally from Texas, Holliday, along with her parents and sister, moved to Virginia when she was 8 years old. As a child, she observed her parents, who were both healthcare professionals and “very hardworking while [she] was growing up.”

Middle school and high school days dwindled, and Holliday evolved into a nursing student at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon, Virginia, where she pursued and obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She quickly found a job after graduation and began her career as a healthcare professional.

“I worked as a registered nurse for about four years,” said Holliday. “[Eventually,] I just got so tired of it. Nursing is just really depressing— you’re constantly around sadness, and I wanted to do something that makes people happy.”

Holliday neared her fourth year working as a registered nurse when she and her husband, Mo Farrouki, a businessman, answered a phone call that altered Holliday’s professional life.

“We got a call that a building was vacant,” said Holliday. “Our friend in Jonesborough told us to come check it out, and we got a really good deal on it. It was meant to be.”

The couple transformed the vacant building into The Black Olive, an Italian restaurant that Holliday co-operates with Farrouki, who owns another Italian restaurant, Primos, in Elizabethton.

Holliday resigned her healthcare career to tend to people in a way she would enjoy. Although she loved nursing, she needed “something different and some positivity.”

“[When you’re a nurse,] you’re serving the patients and get them everything they need,” said Holliday. “[The restaurant industry] is sort of parallel to that.”

Operating The Black Olive entails responsibilities after the dinner rush, but Holliday remains occupied past closing hours. She raises four children— one of whom is younger than a year old.

Holliday trusts the employees on days or nights she cannot be present. She holds the team to high standards “after seeing how well they work together and solve conflict.”

“It can be very stressful at times dealing with taking care of the children and all of their activities and running the restaurant,” said Holliday, “but luckily I have such a wonderful staff and help that they make it so much easier for me.”

The Black Olive marked its third year in August and commemorated several workers’ third year. According to employees, celebrations are not foreign to the Italian restaurant’s tight-knit workforce.

“An employee left after enlisting in the U.S. Army, and another moved away for college,” said Brandon Ingram, a veteran server at The Black Olive. “Kinsey threw both of them a big going-away party. It’s obvious she truly cares about her employees.”

Holliday not only caters to her customers and employees. She reciprocates to her community by supporting surrounding high schools.

“Kinsey has always been good about doing sponsorships and fundraisers within the community,” said Ingram. “I know she always gives away gift certificates to students or teams at David Crockett High School.”

A former employee, Kalliope Strapp, remembered all the donations to school soccer teams and a “large contribution to [an employee] who recently got diagnosed with cancer.”

“Every few months, Kinsey even hires actresses to show up as Disney princesses,” said Strapp. “Kinsey is an excellent boss.”

Holliday’s previous experience in healthcare enables her to go above-and-beyond in a different line of work. Employees recognize the caring qualities Holliday embodies through everyday interactions, whether it be in the workplace or on an outing with her employees.

“She’s taken us out to eat a multiple amount of times,” said Ian Messer, a host and server working toward his second year at The Black Olive. “And whenever she stops by the restaurant on days off to fill out paperwork or check on customers, she also takes the time to talk to [the employees] to see that the shift is running smoothly.”

With her active roles in the workplace, the household and the community, Holliday attributes her work ethic and motivation to her husband, who began to work when he was 7 years old.

The Black Olive is not strictly Italian; the restaurant hosts Moroccan-themed nights when customers relish dishes that Moroccan-born Farrouki prepares.

“Some of the most memorable experiences at The Black Olive are the Moroccan nights,” said Holliday. “It is very cool to hear the feedback and see how much everyone enjoys the food from his culture and background. We even have belly-dancers and Moroccan music for added excitement!”

Disney princesses and Moroccan nights at The Black Olive attract more customers, but Holliday foresees further amendments to adjust to the rising business. She and her husband consider new ideas and formulate plans to satisfy both regular and new customers.

“I see The Black Olive continuing to grow and flourish,” said Holliday. “We have plans to enclose the patio for winter months.”

Holliday never envisions herself returning to a career within healthcare, but she envisions tackling different challenges.

“I’d like to take some business courses,” said Holliday. “Maybe try different types of businesses and open them up.”

Despite devising goals for the future and taking on challenges to achieve these goals, Holliday focuses on present-day events and short-term goals while remaining receptive to what lies ahead.

Holliday found a passion in a profession that seemingly differs from her original work, but the two careers prove similar.

Although she no longer draws blood, measures heart rate or tends to sick patients, Holliday ensures other needs are met within her line of work.

“The difference [between being a nurse and a restaurant owner] is you can’t always get a good end result with nursing,” said Holliday.

What is the “end result” from dining at The Black Olive?  Homemade calzones, of course.