The address 455 Blowing Rock Road may not immediately ring a bell, even for many Boone locals. The location may be better known as the address for the previously long-running Parthenon, or maybe Tank’s Tacos, Gaijin, and now, Coop’s.
Today, Coop’s stands only with a makeshift tarp sign to distinguish itself from the previously named Gaijin, an Asian noodle bar. Before the two co-owners, Shelly Parsons and Stan Chamberlain transitioned to Coop’s, they owned and ran Gaijin, which operated for a little over a year.
Parsons and Chamberlain saw the need for more Asian flavor in Boone. However, as a year passed and the market for Asian cuisine did not prove to be profitable enough for the couple, they decided to start Coop’s.
“The people who came in to Gaijin loved it, but realistically how many times are people going to eat ramen in a week?” Parsons said.
Coop’s aims to have a lighter appeal more suited to college students and locals who are looking for good food and cold beer. Coop’s promises to have a little something for everyone in terms of chicken, specifically wings.
The menu features traditional wings that accommodate purists who prefer plain, barbecue or roasted garlic wings. For the daring, Coop’s offers chicken drenched in a ghost chili sauce that Chamberlain promises will sneak up on its victims, while the Nashville hot wings have more of an immediate impact.
With his new menu, Chamberlain accommodates the daring and the adventurous. The Cheeto crust wings, for example, are coated with a cheesy breading.
Also on the menu are international flavors, such as peanut Sriracha, jerk, and mango hot and sour chicken.
Although other restaurants at the plot have not seen as much success as the Parthenon or even its neighbors, the Tapp Room, Chamberlain and Parsons are dedicated to delivering quality, almost fine dining food in an easy-going environment and a college student’s budget in mind.
“We’re trying to keep it light here. We do specials every day including our chicken and waffles special that will be coming soon every Sunday,” Chamberlain said. “And now we’re trying to collaborate with Tapp by coordinating specials between the both of us.”
In addition to being a co-owner, Chamberlain manages the kitchen. Before starting Gaijin and Coop’s, the chef had a career in fine dining, and with that comes a responsibility for both Parsons and Chamberlain to source many of their products locally.
“What sets us apart from other places around here who may be doing similar things is the fact that we’re not buying anything premade,” Chamberlain said. “Nothing comes in frozen and we try to buy as much as possible locally.”
Coop’s works with Lett-us Produce and Against the Grain to put together its menu and deliver more consciously sourced food to Boone residents. Lett-us Produce operates in Boone while the Against the Grain farm is a 20-minute drive from campus in Zionville.
“We love working with self-made restaurateurs like Coop’s because we feel they have the same mission statement that we do with just a dedication to quality and spirit most of all,” Holly Whiteside, an owner of Against the Grain, said.
With four different restaurants in the same plot over a four-year period, longevity is on Chamberlain’s mind.
Will Coop’s stand up to the competition and prevail, or will it be another passerby like its predecessors in the growing town of Boone?
“This is, of course, something we’re thinking about,” Chamberlain said. “But now, since we’re trying to be more of a bar, I think we’ll see a lot more success.”
Story by Savannah Nguyen, A&E Reporter
Photo by Megan McCulloh, Staff Photographer
Featured photo caption: The exterior of Coop’s Chicken and Beer, located where Gaijin Noodle Bar once was.