Michael Emerson became a corporate financial analyst out of college while planning to be his own boss long term.
He started scouting restaurant concepts when he came across a Lawrence favorite — Jefferson’s restaurant — which had a friendly vibe and was packed whenever he stopped by.
So he left the corporate world behind and signed up as a Jefferson’s franchisee with his mother, Patricia Duncan. Their Emerson Investment Partners LLC, Overland Park, opened a Jefferson’s in Olathe earlier this month and they plan to open at least a couple more Jefferson’s in the area .
On Monday night the Olathe restaurant — in the former Johnny Brusco’s New York Style Pizza space in Ridgeview Plaza, 10540 S. Ridgeview Road — was filled with families, sports teams taking a break after the game and couples out for a casual date night.
“I think people like the atmosphere and food. We put out a good product and the price is right,” said Emerson, 25. “We try to be as family-friendly as possible. I want people to be able to bring their kids in at 9 or 10 at night and be comfortable.”
Jefferson’s founder, Jefferson “Jeff” Webb, saw a need for a local hangout while he was a student at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala. After graduating, he sold his treasured baseball card collection and pooled funds with a loan from his parents to open the first Jefferson’s in mid-1991. Despite a small menu, the restaurant was a big hit, often selling out of its hot wings.
A Lawrence location opened in 2001, and that was supposed to be the last.
But then people kept pestering the owners to franchise. Now the Nashville-based chain has two company-owned restaurants and 18 franchise locations in Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee.
Jefferson’s is known for its wings and oysters, but the menu also includes specialty burgers, wraps, entree salads, chicken fingers and more including appetizers like fried pickles, mini corn dogs and buffalo chicken nachos.
Emerson said the Oyster Po’Boy and Shrimp Po’Boy have been favorite orders for his Olathe customers.
The restaurant offers daily specials like $6.99 wraps on Tuesdays, 70-cent wings on Wednesdays, and 99-cent children’s meals on Sundays.
Jefferson’s has nearly 20 TVs and more are coming. A private event space in back seats up to 40 people.
Jefferson’s also is known for its Dollar Wall. Customers decorate a $1 bill that is then posted on the wall but one big spender decorated a $5 bill. Many customers put stylized versions of their first names and embellish George Washington’s portrait with a mustache or new hairdo, while others give a shout-out to their favorite teams with several Rock Chalk and other University of Kansas references.
But while Jefferson’s has built a loyal following in Lawrence that has followed it to Olathe, Emerson hopes to expand its fan base and the entryway features pennants from different teams.
Dunkin’ Donuts, 12075 W. 87th St. Parkway, Lenexa, is scheduling a grand opening for June 6 — National Donut Day — with a soft opening planned a few days before. The new location will be open around-the-clock and have a drive-through.
Sushi UNI is now open at 12841 W. 87th St. Parkway, Lenexa. Jason and Landy Liu put the UNI in the name to stand for “you and I” since they plan to customize some menu items for their customers.
Chopstix Asian Cuisine, a Korean Chinese fusion restaurant, at 10326 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, recently had its grand opening. Menu items include appetizers, noodle dishes, sweet and sour pork, sushi rolls and special entrees.
Jasmine Pavilion Chinese Cuisine plans to open this summer in the Prairie Trails West center at 15040 S. Blackbob Road, Olathe. The owner had previously owned the Lucky Garden Chinese Buffet in De Soto, Kan.
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