They say life is made up of a million little moments that happen to you along the way—short blips in time that can later define your future without you even realizing it.
That’s exactly what happened to Zeke Arter, the partner at our Chattanooga community store. It’s all because of a chance meeting between his wife, Shanda, some 20 years ago that would eventually lead Zeke Arter down a path he never expected: business owner and biscuit maker.
Scott Moore is the founder and visionary behind Maple Street Biscuit Company in Jacksonville. Before his name became synonymous with the best biscuit on the First Coast, he lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee with his wife, Robyn, and their three children. It was there that Robyn met Shanda 18 years ago at another sandwich shop called the Bagel Market. As women tend to do, they easily struck up conversations that led to a lasting friendship between the couples. So much so that Zeke and Shanda asked Scott to officiate their wedding in 2001.
In 2012, much to the Arter’s surprise in Tennessee, they got word that Scott had left his job with a national grocery chain to pursue his new passion: biscuits. And his vision of a community store featuring southern comfort food with a modern twist was taking the Jacksonville food scene by storm.
As all good friends do, the Arter’s made spring break plans to travel to Florida, support their friends, and really find out what this Maple Street was all about. Zeke recalls waiting in line to place his order in a packed store. All he could repeat in his head in disbelief was, “It’s just a biscuit. This packed for just a biscuit?”
Well, it didn’t take long for Arter to be “pleasantly surprised.” He was so surprised that three years later he still remembers his first order: a Sticky Maple, Hashups and of course, an Iced Cinnamon Pecan Biscuit as well. He and his family were so impressed that they implored Moore to open another location one day back in Tennessee.
Fast forward almost a full year and Zeke Arter was in a place he never expected. It was February 2014 and he was professionally unhappy. The stress of giving energy to a job where other people didn’t seem to care was taking its toll. Unexpectedly, he had a thought; he should be the one to open the Maple Street store in Chattanooga. He texted his wife on a whim to gauge her shock value, and much to his surprise, she immediately said “Okay.”
When Zeke got the news to Moore, he quickly found himself down in Jacksonville at a Maple Street Biscuit Company—this time behind the scenes to get entrenched in the culture to see if this could really be his dream too. For three days he was with Chris Sears at the new Jacksonville Beach store making sausage gravy and simultaneously picking the minds of team members about the culture and the atmosphere. When Zeke went to leave, Moore urged him to take a week and go home and pray about it with his wife before giving him his final answer. It was a quick seven days with no looking back.
By September 2014, the Maple Street Biscuit Company was up and running on Broad Street in downtown Chattanooga. It was the company’s first location out of the state of Florida and still is today.
“It has been an adventure to say the least,” recalls Arter. “It’s been full of highs and lows, successes and failures.”
In less than one calendar year, the Chattanooga store is already firmly entrenched in Chattanooga’s increasingly bustling downtown and its ever-growing “foodie” scene. The team has hosted Hollywood actor Elijah Wood and film crews from Nashville based CMT (Country Music Television). They’ve racked up more than 145 Yelp reviews in 10 months, and more than 100 reviews on Trip Advisor where their biscuits and gracious service rank as the fourth best overall restaurant experience in Chattanooga.
“It’s humbling to say the least,” says Arter.
But for him, the success stretches far beyond the restaurant’s front door. The Chattanooga team has already had a chance to impact Young Life, the UTC Campus, and be involved in community events such as Riverbend, boat races, the Ironman and the Half Ironman.
Also, Arter shares some of his team members who were previously homeless are now back on their financial feet through Maple Street. Many young teens are also getting invaluable first-time job experience.
“It’s two times harder that I thought it was going to be.” states Arter. “I’m having to be responsible for my team and the business. It’s more challenging … and more good.”
Arter Family Maple Street Favorites:
Zeke: The BLT and the Five and Dime (which is impressive since growing up he didn’t even like gravy).
Shanda: The Chicken Club
Kaylea: The Five
Lexi: The Sticky Maple
Brooklyn: David Hashups