Pal’s to Knoxville? Executive won’t rule out future expansion

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Could Pal’s Sudden Service open one of their famous restaurants in Knoxville? The chief operating officer of the iconic Tennessee chain wouldn’t rule it out in a press conference with new spokesperson John Fulkerson.

Pal’s, the popular restaurant chain that has served the Tri-Cities area for over 60 years, officially unveiled Tennessee men’s basketball player John Fulkerson as a spokesperson in front of their original location in Kingsport on Monday.

The business has expanded to 30 locations in Northeast Tennessee and Southeast Virginia, but Fulkerson and many fans down I-81 alike have long wondered when Pal’s will finally set up shop in Knoxville.

“Potentially,” said Pal’s Sudden Service COO Adam Crosby when asked if the deal with Fulkerson opened up the Knoxville market to them.

“Potentially. We’re always looking to expand. So to touch briefly on Pal’s expansion, we only believe in building a restaurant where we have the leady fully-trained and ready. So that kind of determines where and how we expand, but definitely in the future I think Knoxville would be a good market for us.”

Pal’s Sudden Service COO Adam Crosby.

Fulkerson, whose desire to see the chain expand into Knoxville has been well-documented, took the microphone to tell Crosby he was ready to do what it takes to bring the famous frenchie fries to Knoxville.

“Mr. Crosby, I’m willing to go through whatever training I need to go through. Whatever training and leadership classes, I’m willing and ready to do that whenever the time comes,” Fulkerson said.

A Kingsport-native, ‘Fulky’ has been one of the restaurant’s biggest supporters since he joined Tennessee’s men’s basketball program in 2016. In April, he announced he would be taking advantage of the NCAA ruling allowing athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic and return to Tennessee for the 2021-22 season. He made the announcement in a 3-minute video that included several shots of him wearing a Pal’s T-shirt.

Crosby presented Fulkerson with a stack of Pal’s T-shirts signed by Pal’s founder Pal Barger, who passed away last year at the age of 90.

The deal was made possible through a recent shift by the NCAA to allow athletes to pursue compensation for their name, image and likeness.

“For me, it was kind of like a no-brainer,” said Fulkerson when asked about how the deal came about. “This is something I’ve been thinking of for years but I never really thought it would come true.”

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