Projected to open by the beginning of December, the historically inspired Ooltewah Whistlestop will feature a variety of gourmet soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as giant handcrafted milkshakes with several toppings. The new venue will also include rental space for events on the second and third floors.
All elements, including the tiles and booths composing the exterior and interior design of the building, will be completely custom. The second floor will include vintage arcade games while the roof will feature a small putting green, fireplace and boxwood wall with a pink neon sign reading “Wet your Whistle!”
“This is a whole experience,” said Melissa Cain, who co-owns the business with her husband, Josh Cain. “It’s not just the food; it’s not just the building. It’s the whole thing. We designed everything from scratch, so it’s not your typical run of the mill restaurant — it’s all in the custom details. Even the door stops in the bathrooms, the men’s rooms have little brass lion heads on them. It’s in every little detail.”
Liz Miller-Betack, who graduated from Southern with a BA in Business Management, is a friend of the restaurant owners and has played a significant role in the interior design process. She is helping them with choosing colors, tiles and other details.
The restaurant has been in the works for a couple of years, according to the Cains. The couple has built Ooltewah Whistlestop’s building from the ground up using inspiration from the Ooltewah Depot that used to stand a couple hundred feet away from the restaurant’s current location. While the cafe is not an exact copy of the historical building, the flat iron shape of the building is inspired from the 1920s to 1950s era and Ooltewah’s train stop history.
In addition to tapping into the local historical culture and adding a new niche stop to Ooltewah and Collegedale’s register of restaurants, the Cains hope to help revitalize all of Main Street.
“When you picture a ‘Main Street’ in a downtown of a small town, you imagine all these brick and mortar buildings. We’d love to see that happen through here,” Melissa Cain said. “We are into making old things really cool. We just like to do that stuff for the community, really getting the community involved and rehabilitating the area.”