ROGERSVILLE — When the Medical Center Pharmacy on West Main Street closed in early summer, its lunch counter remained open.
Now known as the Medical Center Grill, LLC, the long-time eatery is open from 9 a.m, until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday each week.
Breakfast and lunch, including what many residents term the “best burgers in town,” are served up daily, according to manager Connie Bailey.
But for the past couple of months, the grill also has been dispensing live music each Friday morning along with scrambled eggs and hamburgers. While customers dine at the counter or at several tables near the front of the business, a group of area musicians plays stringed instruments and sings from folding chairs positioned beneath the greeting card rack.
The greeting cards are on sale at the rate of “10 for a dollar” and both Manager Bailey and musician Jim Bowman said plans are for room to be made for a larger performance area and more dining tables to be added once the greeting cards are gone.
Already gone from the pharmacy that opened in 1961 is the pharmacy stock.
Bowman, a Johnson City native who lived in Gray and Surgoinsville before moving to Rogersville years ago, said he and several other members of the group that now plays at the Grill each Friday have played together at other venues around town for years.
Last Friday morning, the seven-member group was playing everything from western swing to Gospel with plenty of Nashville classics thrown in for good measure.
Those playing music on Oct. 11, included Bowman, singer/songwriter Jeff Orr, Ralph Jones, veteran musician Hale Vance, Rogersville School Board Chairman Reed Matney, Joe Williams, Kenny Wilder and Charlie Whitehead.
Vance, who now lives in Gray, once operated a music store in downtown Rogersville, where group member Reed Matney worked while he was in high school.
Group member Joe Williams also performs with a Gospel group called the Circuit Riders. That group will be performing at 1 p.m. Oct. 26 at Piney Flats United Methodist Church’s fall festival.
Matney played bass guitar and the rest play acoustic or electrical guitars as they accompanied themselves on a variety of songs.
A portable sound system boosted their sound as the musicians took turns singing lead on songs.
Bowman said the musicians sometimes sing songs of their own composition. “Everybody learns the song as we play it if they don’t already know it,” he said
He noted that group member Jeff Orr, who has had a song he wrote recorded by performer Kid Rock, was the first of the loose-knit group’s members to propose that they play at the Medical Center Grill.
“He eats there a lot and one day, he asked them if we could start playing there,” Bowman said.
Grill manager Bailey said she went of vacation earlier this summer and returned to learn that the group was going to start performing at the grill.
“They just showed up and started playing,” she said. “They just do it for fun.”
Bailey noted that Medical Center Grill owner William Pack, who was the pharmacist when the pharmacy closed, decided to keep the grill open.
She noted that Pack, who now is a pharmacist for a chain pharmacy, had purchased the business from its former owners. The building that houses the Medical Center Grill and two other medical-related businesses, is owned by Ken Smith, she said. The building, for many years, also housed the offices of many Rogersville physicians, including Dr. Blaine Jones and the late Dr. Walter Goforth.
Bailey said she reached her 28th anniversary at the Medical Center Grill in August.
“It’s home to me,” she said, noting that she began working at the lunch counter and later became a pharmacy technician there.