KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville restaurant owner, operator and cook will be retiring at the end of the month. He has been running a luncheon grill on Middlebrook Pike for nearly 50 years when the now busy road was just two lanes.
WATE’s Don Dare sat down with Jacob Kamar and the new owner of the restaurant, Kelly Horstman, who will be operating the popular grill along with her husband in just a few weeks.
When Jacob immigrated from Israel more than 50 years ago, a friend suggested he check out Knoxville. He went to Knoxville and within a few years he opened up what was then called Time-Out Deli. The name is different today, but the menu and friendly smiles are the same.
Jacob is in the home stretch ending a long career. For 48 years, he’s been standing behind the grill at his deli preparing food the old way — one at a time, hot on the grill. Fresh food is sliced as you watch and a variety of sandwiches and daily lunch specials are prepared.
The place is Jacob’s Restaurant and Grill. It’s been open since 1974 in the same location on busy Middlebrook Pike.
Working alongside Jacob has been Rhonda, his wife of 22 years. When asked about what they will miss the most, Rhonda shared that it would be the customers.
“It will be the customers because we know so many of them. We call them by name You get to know people that way,” Rhonda said.
For several years now, Jacob has been battling cancer. For health reasons, he is stepping away.
“Yeah, I have some health issues. I have to deal with it. It just demands that I step away from it,” Jacob said.
“We need to move on and it’s time to let somebody else have the fun that we’ve had,” Rhonda added.
Jacob shared his ingredient for success, “Hard work. Loyalty in the people that work with me and buying quality food.”
With Horstman being the new owner and operator, to her, Jacob’s Restaurant and Grill is an icon, just like the man.
“It is going to be a lot of fun. They have a clientele like no other here. It is kind of like a modern-day Cheers if you will. They call everybody by name. We are not a bar. Everybody who comes here repeats coming here because of the atmosphere. The people who work behind the line. We are going to keep the name. We are changing nothing. We are coming in here and we are carrying on Jacob’s legend. That is the most important thing we want everyone to know,” Horstman said.
In a few weeks, Jacob, at 78, will be passing the torch, knowing he has touched many lives.
“I enjoyed it. It was fun. Still fun,” Jacob said.
Jacob became an American citizen many years ago. He said coming to the United States was a dream come true because here he could pave his own path. Making many life-long friends along the way and providing good meals.
Editors note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the new owner of the business. It has since been corrected.