When the pop rock band the Jonas Brothers covered the punk track “Year 3000” on their double platinum, self-titled album, Jonas Brothers, they peeked into a future where people live underwater, teenage boy rockers make the hearts of girls with Princess Lela-style hair quiver, and their descendants (a great-great-great-granddaughter) are “doing fine.” And everyone bought their seventh album.
The pop group’s optimistic vision decades from now is a good thing (they seem to suggest that they’ll still be churning out hits well past their centennial birthdays) for their legions of fans including, we might imagine, the mer-princesses making their home under the sea.
But the merry take on the distant future that their song conjures up can also be said to apply to something closer to home and happening now. And that’s the difference their family is making in their adopted hometown of Belmont.
The brothers may not have known it at the time they released the album in 2007, but their enormous success has had a ripple effect in the small town just outside of Charlotte where their grandmother once worked in the local textile mills. Kevin Jonas Sr. and his wife opened Nellie’s Southern Kitchen in 2016, to the kind of instant fame that has become a Jonas family signature. Wagner Murray Architects was honored to help make comfort food served in an “industrial-chic” setting possible for Nellie’s Southern Kitchen by overseeing the redevelopment of the restaurant site, a 1930s-era retail store.
The design pays homage both to the biscuit-n-gravy cooking Kevin Jonas Sr.’s mother Nellie, a Belmont resident until 2011, was famous for as well as his sons’ rock-star triumphs. A house band performs nightly and a beautifully stylized floor-to-ceiling portrait of Nellie hangs on a wall.
WMA looked for a perfectly-pitched balance between rooted, down-home and traditional and a modern, upbeat, global vibe in pairing warm wood tones and cotton-colored walls with exposed ceilings and concrete floors. Like the Jonas Brothers’ music, it’s a space that is cheerful, good-natured and bright — but with a puckish twist.
And, just as a great deal of hard work goes into becoming an overnight sensation, the site development presented a number of technical and engineering challenges, such as adding a second-story roof deck and bar and converting an adjoining service station into the restaurant’s takeout annex. The upside, though, is that Nellie’s has become another signature spot in Belmont’s Main Street revitalization.
Like banana pudding, pimento cheese and the pleasant fizz of your favorite pop song, it’s a space that gives you a good feeling, which is just what we were aiming for.