COOKEVILLE – Local eatery WestSide Deli is now in the hands of new ownership, bought by a pair of businessmen who have another nearby restaurant connection.
Long-time friends Jay Albrecht, founder of Seven Senses Food & Cheer, located on neighboring West Broad Street, and new partner Michael McDearman, a GrillMaster, barbeque expert and competition cook, took over operations of the New York-style deli from Frank and DD Mariani on Feb. 22. WestSide Deli, 102 N. Cedar Ave., has been a growing business venture since it first opened in September 2012 – just 30 months ago – and Albrecht said the acquisition was a perfect opportunity to expand their restaurant operations on Cookeville’s WestSide. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“It was kind of a mutual thing between us and the Marianis; we both saw it as an opportunity,” Albrecht told the UCBJ. “We want to have a huge presence on the WestSide, because that’s ultimately a huge part of our future business plan, and where the focus is going to be as Cookeville continues to grow.”
Albrecht said the transition thus far has been smooth. Many menu favorites will remain but some changes can be expected. Albrecht and McDearman both say that will allow them a first-hand opportunity to put their own spin on the restaurant. But the biggest benefit may happen behind the scenes.
“While the WestSide Deli operation, from the public’s point of view, may look the same, we’re able to expand our kitchen and storage space and do a lot of the Seven Senses prep work in that location,” Albrecht said. “We’re able to work it out operationally to benefit both businesses – and take advantage of some of those economies of scale at the same time.”
WestSide Deli isn’t the only restaurant primed for change. Seven Senses, which debuted in 2013, is also bracing for a new, expanded menu, “one that will keep some of the favorites but hopefully expand our clientele even more,” Albrecht said. “We’ll be giving people a little bit of a different take on what Seven Senses is about, while still maintaining that Southern American feel we started with.” In addition, Albrecht and McDearman have brought on Chad Combs as their director of operations for both locations.
“With Seven Senses and WestSide Deli and any of our future endeavors, we’re building an Upper Cumberland culinary dream team, if you will,” McDearman said. “We have a depth of experience here, and we’re ready to dive in and help the Upper Cumberland be the shining star that it is.”
“Chad is more than just a great chef,” Albrecht added. “He’s got a lot of business experience when it comes to the operations of a restaurant. He’s been involved with several restaurants in the past in the Cookeville area. And what a lot of people don’t know is that Michael was involved in Seven Senses from the very beginning, helping establish the direction behind the scenes, and he’s been involved in some degree all the way through. This was just an opportunity to make that a formality.
“We want to be able to do just about anything that somebody could want from a culinary perspective,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to put our heads together in a way that will make this growing restaurant group even better.”