Editor's note: This is part of a series the Aiken Standard will run periodically on locally-owned restaurants around and beyond Aiken County. To have your restaurant included, email Stephanie at email@example.com.
They knew wanted to open a restaurant. It was just a matter of finding that perfect location. One Internet ad later, Brandon and Jeanne Velie found it.
Almost nine years later, that location continues to function as the couple's downtown Ridge Spring restaurant – Juniper.
Juniper serves as a multilayered operation. It is open Mondays to Sundays with menus of lunch, dinner and brunch.
Originally, lunch was the only option.
“One key to our success is how supportive the community has been,” Jeanne said. “It's made such a difference, and that support allowed us room to grow.”
On the menu
Lunch is served Mondays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The lunch menu might differ slightly to add in certain specials. Other than, it “stays the same,” Jeanne said.
Items that can be ordered during these times include sandwiches such as the grilled Reuben, salads such as the chef salad and soups such as the Juniper corn chowder, one of Juniper's signature items, Jeanne added.
A drink station with at least water and tea is set up for customers' use during lunch hours.
Dinner is served Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 9 p.m. During those times, servers will come to your tables to take your orders.
Those tables will be draped in white linens and lit by candle light.
Jeanne adds that customers do not have to dress up for dinner unless they want to. She does recommend reservations.
The dinner menu changes at least with the seasons. It is divided by little plate options and big plate options.
For the spring, a big plate option is the BBQ-braised chicken and mac and pimento cheese course.
A little plate option is another Juniper favorite – Lowcountry-spiced SC shrimp and Adluh grits flavored with Brandon's homemade spices.
On Sundays, a buffet is set up for brunch, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Everything is made to order,” Jeanne said.
Dessert, wine and beer are also available.
Behind the menu
The Velies' food supply comes primarily from the local area and the South Carolina state.
Such sites include Columbia's Adluh Flour, Monetta Asparagus Farm and Aiken's Trail Ridge Farms.
Once they know what's available, the Velies map out their menus.
To help carry out those menus is their core staff of around 10.
Sometimes, former employees or the Velies' four children will come by to assist, Jeanne said.
The main staff includes sous chef Dwayne Ligons, one employee who has been with the Velies throughout most of the restaurant's operation.
Brandon works as the business' main chef. He studied cooking in the service, through other chefs and through basic experience, Jeanne said.
“He is very self-motivated, … and he strives for excellence,” Jeanne said.
Ridge Spring, downtown building
The Velies moved to Aiken around 12 years ago.
When they wanted to finally start their restaurant, they searched area ads for a possible location.
“We had a lot of ideas of what we wanted it to be like,” Jeanne said.
An ad soon appeared online. It was a for sale sign for Ridge Spring's Rusty Roof General Store.
The business was located in a building that has stood since the 1890s, according to Jeanne.
Excited by the ad, the couple stopped by.
“We just really loved this area, the character of Ridge Spring,” Jeanne said. “It was just something you could feel the minute you drive into town.”
After observing the town and studying the business, the Velies were ready to take full control.
In the summer of 2005, the Rusty Roof became Juniper.
Jeanne, with her sales and marketing background, oversees the business side, while Brandon heads the cooking area.
Also, if you ever notice that the restaurant's appearance shifts around, you can look to Jeanne for the cause.
Currently, classic photos that spotlights the area's history and area artwork are hung up along the walls.
The restaurant's name Juniper wasn't so carefully decided.
It was a name that simply appeared to Jeanne.
When she looked it up, she became happier with her choice.
“People use to use juniper berries as a stomach tonic, so if you had a stomach ache, you would use junipers to make a tea. That tea would then make you feel better,” Jeanne said. “I love that idea. If you are hungry and dealing with life, you are going to come in, and we will make you feel better.”
Orders can be called in or sent it online.
Juniper is located at 640 E. Main St.
For more information, visit its Facebook or its Twitter, email restaurant_juniperhotmail.com or call 803-685-7547.
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Area artists like Morian Webb are represented at Juniper. Artists receive full commission from their works’ sales.×
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Juniper has been open in downtown Ridge Spring for around nine years.×
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Juniper co-owner and chef Brandon Velie is a co-founder of Helping Hands’ annual fundraiser A Chef’s Extravaganza.×