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Jennifer Johnson Joiner, owner of Twenty-Two & Crew, opened the restaurant earlier this month in the former Crew’s Drugstore building on U.S. Highway 231 in downtown Rockford. She is excited to have something in the building once again and to be able to offer a new eatery for locals and others. Photo by Christa Jennings
The front of the restaurant includes rocking chairs so guests can sit and enjoy some peaceful time alongside U.S. Highway 231 while taking a break during their day. Photo by Christa Jennings
The patio area built on to the back of the building offers guests the opportunity to grab a bite to eat while enjoying outdoor dining at a patio table. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
New life has been breathed into the old Crew’s Drugstore in downtown Rockford, with the town’s newest restaurant, Twenty-Two & Crew, having opened in the building earlier this month.
Jennifer Johnson Joiner, owner of Twenty-Two & Crew, officially opened the restaurant October 6 with a soft opening. The establishment, classified as a casual dining restaurant and deli, has been feeding hungry patrons ever since and has a grand opening scheduled for next month.
The building had been vacated ever since the drugstore closed its doors for good some years ago. Johnson, a retired court reporter, was excited at the prospect of bringing something into the town for everyone to enjoy.
“My whole life I have been in this town,” she said. “I went to school at Coosa County High School in Rockford. Crew’s Drugstore was the hangout in the afternoons after school. I am sentimental to a fault, and I desperately wanted to buy the building and put something back in this building that the town could enjoy and where we could congregate.”
Regarding the restaurant’s name, Johnson explained that she asked Bill Crew if he would mind if they used their Crew family name in the name of the new business because she wanted to use the old Rexall sign, which reads “Crews Rexall Drug.”
Johnson’s daughter, Mallory Bullard Whitley, came up with the 22 portion of the name from the license plate number designation for Coosa County. The restaurant’s official name is Twenty-Two & Crew LLC., because Johnson said she thought it “looked a little more fancy” with it spelled out; however, she is using the number 22 in the restaurant logo and in the T-shirts that they will soon have for sale.
Opening the restaurant and getting it ready for business entailed making renovations to the former drugstore building.
Johnson explained that they tried their best to make their plans work with the old counter and bar stools. When they couldn’t make that work, her husband, Ronnie Joiner, then set out to design and build the massive bar they have now.
“He also convinced me that we needed to build a full kitchen, so we cut into the adjoining building to build what I thought was a massive kitchen and storage area, which we have almost outgrown in a matter of a couple of weeks,” she said. “It’s true that you will never have enough storage space in a restaurant.”
With quality and handmade food, as well as a convenient location, Johnson has seen repeat customers and already has regulars at the restaurant over the course of the last few weeks. The restaurant’s menu features a variety of specialty sandwiches and paninis, pizzas, salads, and fresh baked desserts, from key lime pie to tea cakes.
So far, Johnson said it’s a toss-up for which is the most popular menu item so far, with the top three contenders being the Philly cheese steak, Cuban and Reuben sandwiches – all top favorites with customers.
“It’s always fun at the end of the day to see which menu items have the most sales,” Johnson said.
The restaurant also features a back deck or patio area that was added on to the building. Johnson said she hopes to have a TV installed on the deck soon for those who want to step outside but do not want to miss a game.
While Johnson said they are not serving on the patio yet, she said patrons can grab a sandwich or other meal and enjoy it outside at one of the patio tables. Rocking chairs also line the front of the restaurant for those who would like to “sit a spell” and take a break during their otherwise busy day.
The new eating establishment also offers a place where sports fans can come enjoy a bite to eat without missing any of the action. Two TVs are located inside the restaurant, with one toward the front and one toward the back, to broadcast games for those who would like to see them.
Johnson said they have been showing the Alabama and Auburn football games on Saturdays and said they also have some people who come in to watch the Atlanta Braves’ playoff games. She said they will do their best to show all of the games each week.
“I hope this will become a place where everyone can come and enjoy a meal, visit with each other, and put some life back into this town after 4 p.m. when the courthouse closes,” Johnson said. “I really want to start doing some fun things in the evenings. I have thought about having trivia night, some occasional karaoke and live music, and other fun events.”
Johnson said that she is considering hosting some of those types of events and themed nights a few times a month to offer something different for those who visit the restaurant during those times, likely on Saturday evenings.
While enjoying the new restaurant and seeing all of the customers coming in to enjoy it, Johnson is also already looking ahead to the future of the business.
She said that she would love to eventually be able to expand into the next building and perhaps put in some old pinball games, electronic darts and perhaps even a pool table in that area.
“I saved the original bar and bar stools in the hopes to someday open an old soda fountain and ice cream parlor,” Johnson added. “That will certainly be sometime later, though.”
Beginning this journey and going through the endeavor to open the restaurant has taught Johnson a few things and given her a deeper appreciation for others who have gone through the process.
“I have a newfound appreciation for anyone who has ever opened a business,” she said. “There are so many hoops you have to jump through with laws and regulations. It makes me wonder how in the world our politicians have dreamed up some of these rules and regulations. But I couldn’t have done it without my good friend and chef/cook, Mr. Glen Fuller, encouraging me along the way.”
While she said she has not yet planned that far ahead, Johnson said she is sure they will have holiday specials as those occasions come.
Currently, she plans to have a special tomorrow evening and participate in Rockford’s Trick-or-Treat on Main Street with goodies for area youth in town to enjoy the event.
Besides holiday specials, Johnson has an ongoing special that she said will always be available. As a way to say “thank you,” first responders and veterans can come in anytime and enjoy any sandwich for $7 with a free beverage as a special for those individuals.
The restaurant now has a Facebook page, and other daily specials will be shared on that social media page, which also features the restaurant’s full menu and other information. The page is located at www.facebook.com/22Crewal or can be found by searching on Facebook for Twenty-Two & Crew.
The restaurant will have its grand opening Saturday, November 13, and everyone is invited to attend this special occasion.
Twenty-Two & Crew is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. The kitchen takes the last order at 8:30 p.m.
“If there is a special occasion such as a ballgame or an event scheduled, we still stay open later, especially on the weekends,” Johnson said.
Twenty-Two & Crew is located at 9681 U.S. Highway 231 in downtown Rockford. Call-in orders can be placed by calling the restaurant at 256-377-8052.