Grainger Today Reporter
BLAINE – For anyone traveling on Hwy. 11W through Blaine, there will be noticeable change to The Little Dipper: the parking lot is full.
The iconic diner and creamery has slowly but surely returned to the days when locals and travelers would stop for good food and interesting conversation.
For the past few years, the restaurant has gone through a number of ownership and staff changes, but is now back as a popular place to eat in or take out.
When the diner was recently put on the market, three local sisters saw an opportunity that they said could not be passed up. Gina Horsley, Mary Mincey and Terri Chandler grew up in the nearby Corryton/Gibbs area and were very familiar with the restaurant. Horsley, whose husband David recently passed, said her husband had always had a dream of owning and running a diner. Horsley wanted to fulfill his dream and by the end of March, 2017, the three were proudly running the restaurant.
Mincey, who is the team leader at the restaurant, credits her background in marketing as a big help with improving the quality of The Little Dipper. She said Horsley has the business sense with a background as an auctioneer. Chandler offers creative and decorating ideas. The old décor of metal signs has been replaced with a bright and upbeat scheme that is both inviting and fun.
Although none of the sisters have restaurant experience, Mincey credits their mother Helen with the skills they are using in the business. Helen owned a flower and catering business and their grandmother owned a country store on Washington Pike. Their dad owned different businesses, worked at flea markets and was keen on buying, selling and trading. All of this, plus a good work ethic, rubbed off on the three, and they are using these skills at The Little Dipper.
Mincey said when they first bought the restaurant, business was pretty bad. She said the successful turnaround has been amazing, and it was all from word-of-mouth and Facebook advertising. She also said having great employees is very important. When they bought the business, they retained a few employees, but sought out those skilled in running a restaurant. Along with Mincey, there are nine other employees, with five being full time. She said they plan to increase that number in the near future.
Those familiar with The Little Dipper will see the menu is basically the same as it has always been. Mincey said they have added a few new items, such as a Hawaiian chicken sandwich, a pig burger and a jalapeno dipping sauce. She says that many of their menu items are homemade. The ranch dressing, coleslaw, potato salad, biscuits and gravy, meat loaf and lasagna, to name a few, are all made fresh. The hamburger meat all comes from Cox & Wright IGA in Rutledge. The menu includes appetizers, burgers, chicken, deli sandwiches, specialties, salads, sides and drinks. The ice cream menu offers a wide variety of options and flavors of Mayfield ice cream.
There are always fresh pastries from local vendors and a dessert of the day.
Mincey said that they are considering purchasing a specialty coffee maker to offer to customers.
Along with a new look, the restaurant is offering new events. There is karaoke every Thursday night starting at 6 p.m. Every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. is a farmer’s market, with items such as vegetables and fruit, jellies and jams and flowers and jewelry. They have painted Grainger County Kindness Rocks and hid them around Blaine with coupons painted on. Mincey says they plan to hold kindness rock-painting nights at the restaurant. They are looking into offering bingo and building a stage behind the restaurant to offer music and other events.
The restaurant was built in 1995 by current Blaine Alderman Darrell Williams and his mother, Geneva. They purchased the land in 1994 and opened One Stop Deli, September 19, 1995. Williams said that his full-time job at Walmart and running the deli soon became too much, and they sold the property in 1996. He said it was an auto parts store for a short time then a deli again before becoming The Little Dipper in early 2000.
The Little Dipper Diner & Creamery is located at 1276 Rutledge Pike in Blaine. For more information, call (865) 932-4886 or www.facebook.com/TheLittleDipperLLC.