Article by Rick Murray
Photography by Rick Murray
Originally published in Hendersonville Lifestyle
Making it in the restaurant business can be a daunting experience.
Cash flow problems, competitive pressures and staffing issues have to be carefully managed everyday just to make ends meet. Given the thin margins that most eateries operate on, there is little room for error.
When confronted with an unexpected disaster such as a fire, many restaurants do not have the resources to recover, and they ultimately go out of business.
Others though, are able to rebuild and to resume their operations over time.
However, what happens when a restaurant is faced with a back-to-back string of disaster scenarios?
That is precisely the situation that faced Dilya and Michael Knight, owners of Jolly Ollie’s Pizza & Pub in Hendersonville.
In July 2019, Jolly Ollie’s experienced a devastating fire that caused extensive damage to the restaurant building and equipment.
“It was not easy dealing with the aftermath of the fire,” recalls Dilya. “Our insurance policy did not cover everything, and our cash and credit reserves were not enough to see us through the extended downtime. My husband and I had to take new jobs to stay afloat while continuing to deal with the challenges rebuilding our restaurant.”
Despite the hardships, the Knights persisted, and after many months, Jolly Ollie’s was finally ready to reopen in 2020.
“The coronavirus presented us with an entirely new series of challenges,” says Dilya. “However, we were fortunate in that we didn’t have to go into a crisis mode, since we had never really left the one that we were in after the fire. I don’t feel we were either better or worse prepared than anyone else, but thanks to the government small business aid programs, we were able to weather the pandemic storm.”
Finally, after enduring two unprecedented events that would have permanently shuttered most businesses, the all-new Jolly Ollie’s Pizza & Pub made its triumphant return to business on Aug. 12.
Located on New Shackle Island Road near Gallatin Road, Jolly Ollie’s is once again becoming one of Hendersonville’s most popular dining and entertainment destinations. The 2-story building is split into separate dining areas, with the downstairs dedicated to families, while the upstairs is a 21-and-up bar and game room.
“The downstairs dining area is designed with the entire family in mind. The music is softer, and children are welcome to enjoy our great pizza, pastas and more,” says Dilya. “In contrast, the upstairs bar is a playground for adults who wish to eat and drink great fare, enjoy games of darts or billiards, watch their favorite sports on one of the many large-screen TV’s or sing karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights.”
During the post-fire rebuilding process, Dilya and Michael took the opportunity to add several new attractions to Jolly Ollie’s.
“Our newest addition to our upstairs bar is a large outdoor deck that overlooks the back of the property. There are tables and couches for dining and relaxing, and smoking is allowed on the deck,” says Dilya. “The music from inside is piped out to the deck, and patrons seated there will soon be able to view the landscaped beer garden that we intend to build in the backyard.”
As a restaurant first, Jolly Ollie’s features an expansive menu of great food, specialty drinks and locally brewed craft beers.
“Our Shipwreck Pizza and Shrimp Scampi pasta are the two most popular items on our menu,” says Dilya. “However, our chicken wings are also crowd favorites, particularly among our young adult customers.”
First-time customers at Jolly Ollie’s are in for a treat. Not only will they enjoy great food and drinks, they will be treated to some of the finest customer service around.
“Guests at Jolly Ollie’s should expect to have a great time with their family and friends and to experience a higher degree of personal service than at most restaurants,” says Dilya. “I personally try hard to get to know all of my customers, and I make it a point to spend time greeting and chatting with them when they are here. At Jolly Ollie’s we truly love our customers.”
The strong customer service culture is a direct reflection of Dilya’s and Michael’s promise to treat their staff like family.
“We care deeply about each of our team members,” says Dilya. “Michael and I are open books – we freely share our life and business experiences with our team, and we constantly encourage each of them to do more with their lives. We serve as mentors to help them become successful at whatever they choose to do.”
The Knight’s caring and concern for their staff extends outside the workplace as well, as evidenced by their weekly Sunday “Family Day.”
“During the early days of Jolly Ollie’s, we decided that we would close on Sundays and call it our Family Day,” says Dilya. “Nearly every Sunday, we would get together for a variety of fun, family-style events, including cookouts, pool parties, camping trips, laser tag, etc. Although we have grown since then, we are still continuing the Family Day tradition.”
Along with their devotion to their team, the Knights are also deeply committed to giving back to the Hendersonville community.
“Currently, I am actively involved with the Hendersonville Rotary Club, Leadership Sumner and the Sumner County Women in Business,” says Dilya. “Both Michael and I strongly believe in supporting local groups and organizations that uplift our community and help those in need.”
With the recent easing in pandemic restrictions, many people are eager to get out and have some fun again. So, grab your family and friends, and head on over to New Shackle Island Road to help celebrate the rebirth of Jolly Ollie’s Pizza & Pub.
Jolly Ollie’s Pizza & Pub
82 New Shackle Island Road,
Hendersonville, TN 37075