By Chloe Riley
Open for business in 2006, the Dallas Mill Deli quickly became a hit among residents and tourists alike, earning the title, “Huntsville’s hometown deli.” When the previous owner put the restaurant up for sale in 2012, alumna Lindsey Jennings (09) saw the perfect opportunity to make a career switch into the restaurant industry.
“I always wanted to own my own business,” Jennings said. “My father has always owned his own businesses, so I’ve always had the feeling I wanted to own one myself.”
What started as a Saturday family tradition evolved into the pursuit of a new passion for Jennings.
“My family and I used to go eat at Dallas Mill Deli on Saturdays, and when it became available for purchase I wanted a career change and thought I might as well try the restaurant industry and give it a shot.”
Adjusting to her new career as a restaurant owner has been a success for Jennings – a success that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Last September, she was contacted by the Food Network to be featured on “Buddy Valastro’s Family Vacation,” a new TV series highlighting the Valastro family road trip through the Southeast. Valastro, also known as the “Cake Boss,” wanted to include the deli in the TV show when he and his family stopped in Huntsville.
“They were planning their trip around the Southeast and they found our Strawberry Pretzel Salad on the Internet,” Jennings said. “They contacted me and after some Skype interviews they came down and shot an episode.”
The 30-minute episode aired on June 17, 2016.
“It was very humbling and quite a surprise,” she said. “Sales went through the roof; we were selling out of the Strawberry Pretzel Salad like hotcakes.”
Jennings’ largely attributes her success to hard work and dedication, as well as her experience working for Newk’s in 2004 when it first opened in Oxford.
“I was one of the first staff members at Newk’s,” Jennings said. “I was working under the Newcombs, and their work ethic and how they ran their business impressed me so much. I took that with me to other jobs before Dallas Mill, and then I ended up owning a restaurant myself.”
Open for lunch Monday through Saturday, Jennings said what sets the deli apart from other restaurants in the area is that when you walk in you feel like you’re home in your mom’s kitchen.
“I think it’s our atmosphere; you’re getting a quality meal, you’re always greeted with a smile, and with 90 percent of our business being from repeat customers, we’re doing something right in Huntsville,” she said.
Decorated in Huntsville memorabilia, the Dallas Mill Deli has become a staple in the town. Named after a cotton mill that burned down nearby, the deli’s previous owner wanted to keep the tradition of the mill alive.
Since taking ownership in 2012, Jennings has grown the deli’s catering business substantially. In addition to catering, the deli has a lunch truck that goes out five days a week to the Redstone Arsenal, a local U.S. Army post.
“People that are here from out of state working on the Arsenal see our truck, can have a quick lunch and then get back to work,” she said. “After seeing our truck, they usually come into the deli to visit while they’re in town.”
While owning the deli has required a lot of hard work and dedication, it has also been rewarding.
“I feel like anyone can make food,” Jennings said. “But at Dallas Mill we try to go the extra mile by greeting everyone with a smile, providing great customer service, knowing every customer by name and making it exciting for them to come back and see us.”