Kingsport Times-News: Two trendy dining venues opening next door to each other in downtown Rogersville
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Two trendy dining venues opening next door to each other in downtown Rogersville

Jeff Bobo • Updated Apr 7, 2019 at 8:26 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Two brothers from Los Angeles, and two lifelong friends from Florida have somehow found their way to Rogersville where they plan on creating side-by-side dining and live entertainment venues — the likes of which that small historic city has never seen.

Former L.A. rock musician turned computer animator Dean Fowler is in the process of renovating the old Brotherhood Leathers store on Main Street in downtown Rogersville into his vision of a perfect replica of a Hollywood "dive bar".

It's going to be called “Hollywood Hillbilly”, and will feature a gourmet bar food menu, cocktails and beer, and a top notch sound system for live music.

Dean and his brother, fellow computer animation expert Dan Fowler, are also creating a unique ambiance by filling the venue with memorabilia they've acquired over the past 20 years while working on Hollywood films.

Hollywood Hillbilly is tentatively scheduled to open in June.

Meanwhile next door to Hollywood Hillbilly lifelong friends Ben McGrew and Randy Lord, who grew up together in Orlando, as well as Randy's wife Stephanie, are partnering to open Red Dog on Main.

Red Dog will be located in the downtown Rogersville building most associated with the former Mexican restaurant, and will be a family style eatery featuring a wood fired oven, craft beer, and occasional live music.

Red Dog on Main has a tentative opening date in May.

The story behind Hollywood Hillbilly

Dean Fowler is from Los Angeles where he has done computer animation in partnership with his brother Dan Fowler for the past 20 years.

Dean told the Times News they're trying to bring something to Rogersville that you might find in a Hollywood, or a New York, or a Miami.

Fowler owns the building and lives upstairs, and he's currently working on the interior pretty much every day.

"It will have some Hollywood memorabilia and some pretty neat stuff, and then it's kind of a collection of gourmet bar food that I was introduced to while living in Los Angeles," Fowler said. "And, we'll have a heavy focus on music. It will be a full bar and full restaurant."

Fowler added, "The style of food will be a collection of different genres, and they're working out the specific menu at this time to determine what types of food they can served fairly quickly at a reasonable price."

Why open this type of business in downtown Rogersville?

Fowler: "It's been a long time since there's been a lot of stuff move in here and give it a try. We believe the timing is right for these projects to be successful. We're betting that there's a demand for the quality of the product, the service, the atmosphere, and hopefully there's a desire for enough folks in this area to having something a little bit different be more accessible."

What exactly is "gourmet bar food"?

"We're not going to ignore where we are and the things people like, but we definitely want to bring things in that you don't normally find in Rogersville. But, not things that are going to scare people away. Food that everybody is familiar with, but done in a creative way."

With Red Dog opening next door, Fowler doesn't see that as competition, but more of a partnership, along with the Hale Springs Inn, to make downtown Rogersville more of a trendy dining and live music destination.

Fowler: "We have some ideas for at least once a month to have all three locations working in conjunction — different bands at all three, no covers, drink and food specials, and encouraging folks to come to Rogersville and have a little taste of everything."

The story behind Red Dog on Main

McGrew agrees that Hollywood Hillbilly, Red Dog on Main, and the Hale Springs Inn aren't competing against each other, and in fact they're hoping to become part of a three-way attraction to downtown Rogersville.

McGrew is partnering with Randy and Stephanie Lord, the couple responsible for opening Coffee at the Kyle on Main Street.

The menu will highlight a wood-fired oven for skillets, primarily for appetizers. They will serve pizza but won't be known as a pizza place.

How would you describe Red Dog on Main?

McGrew: "I would call us a five star pub. The tastings we've done already feature ground beef, ground sirloin, a prime cut of meat. We've already got the beer license, and we're getting the wine and spirits license. We've got approximately 20 taps planned. It's going to be a tap room and eatery. We're going to source local foods and beverages, including craft beers."

Describe your partnership with Hollywood Hillbilly?

McGrew: “We're all working together and my menu is totally different from his, and totally different from the Inn. We've been doing food tastings with Dean (Hollywood Hillbilly) and he has a very different menu and venue, so I think we'll compliment each other. There's not much on our menus that will compete with each other. We're a restaurant you can bring the whole family to, and you can get a drink at."

McGrew and the Lords purchased quite a bit of the of the contents from the old Sagebrush restaurant in Morristown  when it closed, including the model train, which will be rolling overhead at the Red Dog.

McGrew: "We have a travel theme. Planes, trains and automobiles. Boats as well. So we've now got that train hung up in space, and folks will see that when they come in."

What's the story behind the name?

Red Dog is a real dog that Randy and Stephanie Lord rescued on Easter Sunday many years ago and was the inspiration for the name of the Lords' "Red Dog Ridge Farms" on Burem Road near Rogersville where the restaurant will acquire much of its fruit and produce.

Randy Lord and McGrew are originally from Orlando, Fla. and they've been friends since second grade.

McGrew: “I've been on the west coast for 30 years, and here in Rogersville for two years. I came out to help Randy and Stephanie open the coffee shop, and fell in love with Rogersville.”

Why will a five star pub be successful in Rogersville?

McGrew: "In studying the demographics we saw an opportunity to do something different. People will travel to get good food, and 24 percent of the customers at the coffee shop are from out of town. People do support local businesses here, but there's a need for another food and beverage option in Rogersville, so, I'm in."

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