In 1975, Gerald R. Ford was America’s 38th President, a game show called Wheel of Fortune made its debut on television, the movie Jaws was a big hit in theaters and golfer Tiger Woods was born. Knoxville’s iconic Copper Cellar Restaurant also opened its doors for the first time on March 8, 1975.
There are very few family owned restaurants in Tennessee that survive for 44 years; fewer still in Knoxville. The original Copper Cellar, which was located in the downstairs area of the current Copper Cellar on Cumberland Ave., is one of the longest-standing business on the popular University of Tennessee “Strip.“
“We are proud to have been given the opportunity to serve East Tennessee for nearly a half-century,“ said Copper Cellar founder Mike Chase. “To remember where this all started – and then to see where it is today – is pretty astounding.“
Today, the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants includes Copper Cellar, Calhoun’s, Chesapeake’s, Cherokee Grill, Corner 16, Smoky Mountain Brewery, Cappuccino’s, and multiple banquet and catering locations. The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants employee nearly 2,000 people.
The company will open a new Cheasapeake’s restaurant late spring or early summer this year in Gatlinburg. The new restaurant will be at 437 Parkway in Gatlinburg and will create 80 to 100 new jobs. The new Chesapeake’s will bring the total number of restaurants operated by Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants to 20. Bart Fricks serves as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants and manages all aspects of the companies day-to-day operations.
“We are very much a family business,“ Chase said. “My daughters work here, my wife designed each location, and – at various times – most of our extended family has worked for the restaurants in one
capacity or another. We also have numerous employees who have been with us for more than 40 years – so the whole operation seems like a big family business.“
The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants is synonymous with East Tennessee dining. Known as “the taste of Tennessee,” the company operates locations in sporting venues including Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena and Smokies Baseball Stadium in Sevierville. Its Calhoun’s brand was named “Best Ribs in America” and other restaurant brands in the Copper Cellar Family repeatedly win local and regional awards and recognitions.
The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce awarded the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants its prestigious Pinnacle Award for the positive impact the company has on East Tennessee through programs like its free Veterans Day meals and Making Strides For More Birthdays which supports breast cancer research.
“Our first priority has always been taking care of our guests,” Chase said, “but we focus just as much attention on treating our employees like family members and having a positive impact on the East Tennessee community. I hope they can continue to grow and have a positive impact on this community for at least another half-century.”
The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants currently operates in Knoxville, Maryville, Oak Ridge, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Lenoir City.
For more information, visit www.CopperFoods.com.