McAlister’s Deli opens in Seymour

J.C. Blankenbeker arrived at the new McAlister’s Deli on Monday morning to get sweet tea for his sweetie.

The first 150 people to visit Seymour’s newest restaurant during the grand opening earned one free iced tea per week for 52 consecutive weeks.

That means the Brownstown man or his wife will be able to quench their thirst with the restaurant’s trademarked Famous Sweet Tea once a week for the next year.

“It’s all because my wife loves sweet tea. I’m at McAlister’s because of love,” Blankenbeker said, smiling.

He was the first person in line outside the restaurant at 2014 E. Tipton St. on Monday morning and brought a book to pass the time until doors opened to the public a little before 10:30 a.m.

“I’ve lived in different cities that have McAlister’s. I’ve always loved their food and the environment,” Blankenbeker said. “My wife saw on Facebook that they were going to give away sweet tea for a year, and she was like, ‘Oh!’ She got up early, stayed with the kids and I came out here to wait for her to get her sweet tea.”

After David Blackburn, CEO of Southern Rock Restaurants LLC, spoke to the Seymour store’s employees, they all went outside for a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Jackson County Chamber and Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson.

Once chamber staff and members went through the line inside to place orders, it was the public’s turn. Blankenbeker was the first one to the register to order his wife’s sweet tea.

He was followed by Alisha Brewer and Tammy Anderson, who are neighbors in Seymour.

Brewer said she woke up at 5:30 a.m. and went to Anderson’s house and told her, “Let’s go.” She was ready to order a sweet tea and some food.

Like Blankenbeker, Anderson was there for sweet tea for a loved one.

“The free tea is for my son, who is working, but I’m here for the baked potato,” she said. “He said, ‘Come on, Mom. Sweet tea for a year. If you love me, you will do this.’ I said, ‘That means I have to get up early.’ He said, ‘Exactly. If you love me, you’ll do this.’ Here I am.”

Anderson said she had never been to McAlister’s, but she heard about the baked potatoes, so she checked out the restaurant on Facebook and knew she wanted to order a Spud Max. That’s topped with ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar-jack cheese, green onions, black olives and sour cream.

Besides tea and potatoes, McAlister’s menu includes sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts.

“We do not have a single fryer or a grill. Everything is prepared, freshly sliced, freshly made every single day,” said Stacy Bennett, general manager of the Seymour restaurant. “We are adamant about our time and temps. Everything is fresh every day. Everything is handmade to order. Nothing is premade.”

Founded in 1989, McAlister’s is a fast casual restaurant chain known for its genuine hospitality along with its sandwiches, spuds, soups, salads, desserts and Famous Sweet Tea.

In addition to dine-in and take-out service, McAlister’s offers catering with a selection of sandwich trays, box lunches, desserts, a hot spud bar and more. People also can place their order through the McAlister’s app and rewards program or online at Those who download the app and sign up will receive a free tea.

The McAlister’s Deli brand has more than 520 restaurants in 29 states. The company is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

Southern Rock Restaurants is based in Franklin, Tennessee, and operates more than 150 McAlister’s Deli restaurants in the fast casual segment. The group currently owns and operates locations throughout 13 states, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Blackburn said the Seymour restaurant is the 152nd location for the Southern Rock Restaurants franchise and 44th in Indiana.

Two days before the grand opening in Seymour, McAlister’s showed appreciation to those who tirelessly serve the community by inviting first responders, medical professionals, active military personnel, veterans, teachers, parent-teacher organization members and truck drivers to enjoy a complimentary meal along with a guest.

Bennett, a native of New Albany, said she began working for McAlister’s a year ago but has worked in the industry for 30 years.

“I have mostly a bar background. I’ve been bar manager, restaurant manager,” she said. “I’ve been doing this since I was 15. I’ve got lots of experience, and it’s just what I do. It’s just what I love. I love being around people, and I love just staying busy. I cannot see myself sitting down in a chair all day, that’s for sure.”

Bennett said she became familiar with McAlister’s when the Clarksville location opened, and later, an opportunity arose to work there.

“David Blackburn is a mutual friend of a previous district manager of mine when I worked at Chuy’s. They had mentioned McAlister’s was looking for management, so I applied,” she said. “I started out and I got hired on at the Clarksville location, worked there a week, got sent to Breckenridge Lane (in Louisville, Kentucky). I got promoted to assistant general manager. It happened very fast.”

When the Seymour location was announced, Bennett received the opportunity to be general manager and moved there.

“I’ve been up here waiting for the building to be built for the past couple months, and we’ve been in and out. I’ve been experiencing the community, and they are great,” she said. “They are so nice. I love it, and I’m happy to be here.”

She currently has 41 employees, ranging in age from 16 to 60s, and she is hiring.

“We’re family,” Bennett said. “We’re a good, upbeat place. We come, have a good time, enjoy. Good food, good atmosphere. It’s definitely a good community place.”

The Seymour restaurant’s hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. For information, call 812-777-8280 or visit