Now open in downtown Sewanee, Lunch has a bright, airy dining room with communal seating, a small market selling local products, and a garden around back. For three weeks since the restaurant opened, the owner has debuted a new menu every week featuring fresh products from local farms.
Mallory Grimms (C’15) returned to Sewanee as an alumni a year ago. “We just really missed Sewanee, and it was a long term goal for us to come back. And then COVID [happened], so we said, ‘let’s just move right now instead of keeping it as a far away dream.’ It was a really easy decision to come back here,” said Grimms.
Grimms began her catering business, Hen of the Woods, in East Nashville before moving back to the Mountain. Tired of the restaurant atmosphere, Grimms started the business with a prioritization of community and collaboration with local farmers. “I just started cooking and bringing meals to people I knew. I delivered all over Nashville, and it grew from there. Then I decided that I was making this my full time thing, and I started working with farmers, doing bigger events, stuff like that. I got a spot at the farmer’s market in East Nashville. That was really awesome, I loved my market community there,” said Grimms.
Sewanee Village Ventures bought the vacant building that was once a restaurant named Julia’s and, before that, the building that was once the bank in hopes of finding another merchant to fill the empty spot downtown. “So Village Ventures thought that it would be wise and aligned with our strategy to purchase that building downtown that had been vacant for about two years. Nobody wants a vacant building in our little downtown area. The outcome that we were seeking in doing that is exactly what happened,” said David Shipps, president of Sewanee Village Ventures.
When Grimms heard of the available building, she applied to be a tenant and began work when she was accepted by Village Ventures. The concept of Lunch, like Hen of the Woods, circles around sourcing from farms and using what is locally available. “I work a lot with Sequatchie Cove Farm, and right now we’re talking about how I can source from them but also provide them with value add goods to sell, and how I can be a resource for them, and how can we all just work together more, which I think is unique to the plateau area,” said Grimms.
The building, built in 1933, has now been rearranged to work as a restaurant, with one dining room in the front of the building, featuring long tables for communal seating, and an industrial kitchen in the back.
Inside, Grimms also sells local products like dairy, meat, tea, and coffee. The changing menu offers purposefully limited choices every week. “The small menu came from me being like, okay, I love food and I want to be in the restaurant world, but I hate working at a regular restaurant. I knew that if I was going to open something, then I would want it to be sustainable for me, and that’s keeping it small, not overcommitting,” said Grimms.
Grimms hired seven students and four community members at Lunch. No cooking experience was required, as Grimms is teaching her staff as they go. “I love that everyone meshes and works together. No one has a role here. Everyone is trained to do everything. I wanted the job to be dynamic for everyone, so people could learn a lot, but also so they could trade shifts and what not,” said Grimms.
Grace Scott (C’24) is an employee at Lunch. “I have completely lucked out working at Lunch and with Mallory. She has created something that I think is so special and I feel very grateful to be able to learn from her. It’s been pretty unreal being a part of the Lunch crew and getting to meet the Sewanee community that exists outside of the student body. I really do look up to Mallory and to all the other people that she has gathered around the table,” said Scott.
Grimms hopes to be a resource for students, farms, and the community as a whole at Lunch. “This was a really sustainable option for me, and something I could have fun with. I wanted it to feel approachable. I want everyone to feel welcome.”