One man’s vision and another man’s dream create a downtown beacon
by Margaret Dabbs
Apr 20, 2011 | 4673 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Jered Dodd was a young boy, he would wake up in the middle of the night with recipe ideas. So he kept a notepad on his bedside table, wrote down the new thoughts, and shared them with his mother. Together they experimented with these recipes and Jered beamed as he recalled the success of their ventures.

A pre-law and history major in college, Jered continued exploring new cooking creations as he cooked for all his friends and realized his innate passion for food. His travels took him to destinations where eating out was the ultimate goal — Savannah, Charleston and New Orleans. He took great pleasure in trying new dishes, while always contemplating how he could put his own touch on each one he sampled.

After living in several states and working in different fields, including banking and medical sales, Jered returned home to Sumiton in 2003. There he took one step on what he describes in his easy, open manner as his “yellow brick road.” He opened a small restaurant, Jered’s on Main, where he focused on family dining during the day and steak, seafood, and pasta on Friday nights.

During that chapter of his life, Jered met Don Goetz, who was the mayor of Jasper at that time. He encouraged Jered to move his restaurant to downtown Jasper. With an ever-present dream to create a restaurant in a historic downtown building, Jered hopefully considered the Burton Building. But the renovation project was just too daunting at that time and the idea moved to a back burner, where the flame never died.

In the meantime, Jered’s on Main was drawing a strong crowd of Alabama Power Company enthusiastic eaters and the restaurant catered some special events at Miller Steam Plant. So when Alabama Power offered Jered the opportunity to run the plant’s cafeteria and cater special events, he sold his restaurant. This step added another notch in his belt of cooking and restaurant experience as Jered spent seven happy years feeding and taking care of his friends and “family” at the plant.

Several months ago, Dr. David Rowland began to develop his vision for the Burton Building, turning the empty-eyed, three-story ghost into a functional, visually pleasing, freshly-renewed face on the courthouse square. A white table cloth restaurant as the cornerstone for the first floor of the building seemed perfect, and in our incredibly serendipitous world, the man with the vision for the building and the man with the dream for the restaurant, found each other.

Step into the front door of the Burton Building today, bear to your right, and experience a true breath of fresh air. The rustic pine floors and the original exposed brick walls mesh with simple-lined lighting and textured sheetrock, creating a clean, airy, inviting modern look while maintaining the essential heart and soul of an old building. Lively artwork dresses up the walls and local artists will be invited later to display their work. The hall at the back of the restaurant includes a “wall of fame,” which honors community movers and shakers as well as local entertainers with photos and memorabilia framed in old windows.

Reminders of the yesteryear Burton leather business are featured — a horse collar, golf bags and one of the old sewing machines that created those products. The white table cloths are already in place and the renovation/conversion undertaking brings curious visitors and well-wishers in off the street every day as the project for this part of the building nears completion.

Hoping to open for Monday through Friday lunch in the next few weeks, and then Thursday and Friday dinner shortly thereafter, The Olive Branch Restaurant was carefully named by Jered’s wife, Cristal. The second time Noah sent the dove from the ark to see if the floods had receded, the dove returned with a “freshly plucked olive leaf.” For Jered, the olive branch is a symbol of a new beginning in his life, a new chapter. “When you name a child, you pick a name that touches your heart. This is my child. We picked a name that has meaning, from the heart.”

Cristal has added her creative touches all over the restaurant and consistently supported the development of this new chapter in their lives. In Jered’s meaningful words, his wife “stands beside me and behind me while I chase my dreams.”

At this point, The Olive Branch Restaurant’s lunch menu is three-fold. An array of more than 10 sandwiches will be featured on bread made in-house.

These include The Coastal Catch — blackened fresh grouper with cilantro-lime mayonnaise and homemade mango salsa, The Little Philly — grilled marinated strips of sirloin steak with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized purple onions, grilled peppers and homemade provolone cheese sauce, and a trio of burgers prepared with ground sirloin.

Salad offerings incorporate The BLT — “a bacon lover’s delight,” The Black & Blue — blackened sirloin steak served with fresh salad vegetables and blue cheese chunks, and The Olive Branch — grilled chicken with apples, dried cranberries, and bacon served on fresh spinach with pomegranate-raspberry balsamic dressing. The Blue Plate Special, providing a meat and fresh local and seasonal vegetables, will change each day.

Dinner menu plans include a set menu with seafood, steak, and prime rib, in addition to daily special surprises, as Jered notes, “to keep you guessing.” Pasta specials may include Eggplant Parmesan, Cajun Platters may make an appearance, and desserts like Apple Dumplings, Southern Fried Pies, Key Lime Cake, Peanut Butter Pie, Bananas Foster and Crème Brulee will change each day.

Jered has put together a team to work his restaurant which is as diverse as his menu. He describes finding his cooks “almost like destiny.” One of them hails from Chicago and moved here with his wife, who has Walker County roots, to raise their family in the advantageous small town environment. In Jered’s words, this teammate is “a joy” to work with and “never has a bad day.”

Jered’s other kitchen comrade was born and raised in Walker County, left when Navy service called, and returned in retirement after owning a restaurant in Louisiana. They met one night when Jered was working in the restaurant and this gentleman dropped in while taking his nightly downtown walk. Their conversation quickly focused on food preparation and Jered knowingly nodded as he characterized the dishes of this cook as “seafood wonderment.” Jered’s parents have been actively involved in the realization of his dream and his mom, Brenda, and a family friend, will run the front and assist with dessert preparation.

The Olive Branch Restaurant comfortably resides on the ground floor of the Burton Building, looks out across the courthouse square, and almost appears to smile.

This welcome result of the cooperative effort between the dedicated man with the vision for the building and the refreshingly enthusiastic man with the dream for the restaurant joins other downtown Jasper beacons as they pleasantly lead us back downtown and increase our faith in its continually renewing life.

Margaret Dabbs is a freelance columnist who resides in Jasper. Her column appears every other Wednesday in the Lifestyles section. Comments and suggestions are welcomed by contacting Dabbs at 387-2890.