Powerball winner’s next act: Soul food restaurant in Morristown?

Sandra McNeil Rogers presents her idea for soul food restaurant to the Morristown Planning Board, as her attorney, Jay DeLaney Jr., listens. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sandra McNeil Rogers presents her idea for soul food restaurant to the Morristown Planning Board, as her attorney, Jay DeLaney Jr., listens. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
3

 

Sandra McNeil Rogers wants to serve you bite-sized pieces of jerk chicken, fried fish and peach cobbler.

“I’ve always dreamed of opening a restaurant,” Rogers told the Morristown planning board on Thursday.

And why not?  A $211.7 million Powerball jackpot can make a lot of dreams come true.

Rogers bought her winning ticket in 2010 at Gene’s II Deli in Morris Plains and chose the cash option, worth $101.6 million after taxes. 

Architect Robert Scialla describes plans for soul food restaurant. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Architect Robert Scialla describes plans for soul food restaurant. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

At the time she was a member of the Morris School District board. Rogers also has worked for the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, she told the planning board.

In 2015, Rogers got approvals from Morristown to convert the former Orchard’s Glass repair shop at 51 Bank St. into a three-story liturgical dance studio.

But she changed her mind. Rather than knock down that building and start from scratch, she now seeks permission to re-purpose the structure for Sandi’s SoulBites.  In a town full of restaurants, she says hers will be the only one serving Southern-style soul food.

Rogers and her daughters plan to handle the cooking.

“My grandmother was a chef,” Rogers said. “The whole concept is grabbing a bite to eat on your way home from work.”

When board Chairman Joe Stanley asked how many patrons she anticipated, Rogers cheerfully replied: “All of them!”

AROMAS OR ODORS?

Plans call for a total of 182 seats: 84 inside, 28 in front, and 70 more in back, with a fire pit. Garage-type doors would be in the front and back of the restaurant. Hours would be 11 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Friday, and 11 am to 8 pm on Saturday, Rogers said.

Variances are needed for parking, front and side yard setbacks, and a rear patio. Jack McDonald, owner of the building leased next door by RevHealth, has raised questions about parking, and cooking odors.

Planning board Chairman Joe Stanley, Vice Chair Tim Murphy and Council Liaison Stefan Armington listen to restaurant presentation. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Planning board Chairman Joe Stanley, Vice Chair Tim Murphy and Council Liaison Stefan Armington listen to restaurant presentation. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“To me it’s an insult to the people who work there to have the smell of food over the parking lot,” said McDonald, who asked if a planned exhaust stack could be re-located farther from his building. 

The project’s attorney, former Mayor Jay DeLaney Jr., said the Morristown Parking Authority has indicated it has adequate parking to accommodate the restaurant.

And architect Robert Scialla said the exhaust stack could be moved, if the board requested it.

Scialla expressed great enthusiasm for the project. “It’s a very nice re-use and re-cycling of an existing building. We really like recycling a building and bringing ‘breathing life’ into it,” he said.

More testimony is scheduled for June 22, 2017.

Proposed menu for Sandi's SoulBite restaurant.
Proposed menu for Sandi’s SoulBite restaurant.

If you’ve read this far… you clearly value your local news. Now we need your help to keep producing the local coverage you depend on! More people are reading Morristown Green than ever. But costs keep rising. Reporting the news takes time, money and hard work. We do it because we, like you, believe an informed citizenry is vital to a healthy community.

So please, CONTRIBUTE to MG or become a monthly SUBSCRIBER. ADVERTISE on Morristown Green. LIKE us on Facebook, FOLLOW us on Twitter, and SIGN UP for our newsletter.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 MorristownGreen.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a bit mystified on the hours, 11am-6pm. Is the intent to just be a lunch spot? This has potential but the location without easily accessible parking could doom this from the start. There are a lot of people that just won’t patronize a restaurant without parking.

  2. Excellent Idea!!! Long time coming. Thank you Ms. McNeil Rogers.
    Michelle Harris
    Town Council at Large

  3. Sounds like a wonderful idea. I hope they go for it! And I will definitely patronize this business!

LEAVE A REPLY