It was a leap of faith if there ever was one—Lisa and Todd Easterday left Ohio with eight dogs, nine family members, a caravan of cars and no place to live in Chattanooga, a place they had never visited when they decided to move.
They came to the South to get away from increasing crime near their home in a suburb of Columbus and settled in the Scenic City after securing a deal to open a restaurant on Hixson Pike.
The building they are now leasing—and have plans to eventually purchase—at 4021 Hixson Pike had been on Craigslist for one week when Todd found it.
"It was God slowly telling me, 'Come to Chattanooga,'" Lisa said.
Once they found the building, Lisa started "counting her nickels, dimes and pennies," trying to figure out how to pay for the new space.
And, then, her ex-husband, who had remained her best friend, had a heart attack, died and left her "a boatload" of money, she said.
It was another sign to come to Chattanooga.
With no living place secured, when the large family got to Chattanooga on Oct. 31, they blew up air mattresses and slept on the floor of their restaurant.
One of the eight dogs had six puppies that night. Lisa called them natural Tennessee residents.
"We spent the night there, and the next morning, the Realtor called," she said.
They had their six-bedroom, five-bathroom home on Big Ridge.
To Lisa, that was God saying, "Welcome to Chattanooga," she said.
Now, Lisa and Todd have transformed the building, which had previously been a pub with a bad reputation, into a rib and steakhouse. They are open now and will start serving breakfast in a couple of weeks.
Lisa calls her new restaurant Chattanooga's best-kept secret. The restaurant has 18 employees, and the team makes everything from scratch. There isn't a microwave in the kitchen, Lisa said.
She touted her ribs and bone-in rib-eye, which she said can be cut with a spoon and fork because it's so tender.
The team smokes brisket and turkey and makes sauces and salad dressings in-house.
Some of her family—which includes biological, step- and adopted children—work in the restaurant.
Lisa has paid a year's rent on her home and paid her lease through the year as well, so she doesn't have to worry about those bills. She can focus on her restaurant.
She's invested about $90,000 in the Backyard Grille, which has a swingset and umbrella tables in the back.
Parts of the restaurant are sports-themed. There's a Kentucky blue, University of Tennessee decoration and—of course—a "shrine" to Ohio State, Lisa said.
"We are going to be the place to trash-talk next year," Lisa said. "If anybody can take Alabama, Ohio can."
J. Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing and communication for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said Chattanooga has gotten a lot of positive publicity in recent years, which may prompt people who have never visited the city to consider moving here.
Many people are flocking to Chattanooga and bringing new investment, such as Lisa's business, he said.
And some out-of-towners are taking interest in areas of town that will really benefit from new investments, Marston said.
"[It's] bringing new life to parts of town that really need it," he said.
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