Dec 6, 2021 - News

Scoop: Supperland owners to buy historic Dilworth church that houses Bonterra

Bonterra and Supperland owners Jeff Tonidandel, JD Duncan and Jamie Brown

Jeff Tonidandel, JD Duncan and Jamie Brown, outside of Bonterra. Photo: Courtesy of Tonidandel-Brown Restaurant Group

With their new restaurant Supperland dominating the Charlotte dining scene, co-owners Jeff Tonidandel and Jamie Brown are making another move: They have bought the historic church building houses Bonterra in Dilworth.

What’s happening: JD Duncan, the owner of the longtime favorite Bonterra, is selling the building on Cleveland Avenue to Tonidandel and Brown, with the closing expected in early January. Duncan had already announced plans to open Bonterra Coffee and Wine Bar in Phillips Place. That project is still moving forward.

  • Duncan says the original Bonterra, which opened in 1999, will officially close Dec. 23.
  • Ultimately, the restaurant will be a new concept, not Bonterra or another Supperland.

Why it matters: New development is swallowing everything around South Boulevard, but this old building, created as a place of worship more than a century ago, will remain.

  • And while the pandemic quarantines have been tough on the food industry, this may be a sign of things to come: Realtors who work with restaurants predict we’ll see a lot of new projects in old locations in 2022 as once-scarce restaurant real estate becomes available.

How it happened: Duncan had been considering what to do with the building. Some of his options were uses that wouldn’t have been a restaurant. But then he approached Tonidandel and Brown, who were delighted to take the space. Supperland, after all, is also a former church in Plaza Midwood.

  • They weren’t in the market for a new location when Duncan approached them.
  • “It was more not wanting to pass on a great piece of real estate,” Tonidandel said. “It has so much potential.”
Bonterra church
Bonterra is in a building on the site of Atherton Methodist Church, which opened in the 1800s as the first permanent prayer structure in Dilworth. Photo: Courtesy of Tonidandel-Brown Restaurant Group

Details: The Bonterra building has 6,000 square feet, while Supperland is 7,800 square feet. So the dining rooms are roughly the same size.

What’s next: Tonidandel and Brown, who also own Haberdish, Growler’s Pourhouse and what was Crepe Cellar in NoDa don’t have plans yet on exactly what kind of restaurant they’ll open, the couple said Monday.

“We’re brainstorming,” Tonidandel said. “It’s doesn’t come easy. It has so much potential.”

Flashback: Dilworth Methodist Church, the original church on the property, was built in 1896, and was replaced with the current brick building in 1915. Duncan bought it and converted it into a restaurant about 20 years ago.

What they’re saying: Duncan posted a heartfelt note of gratitude on Bonterra’s website late Monday afternoon. It started:

“Thank you all for 22 years. In 1997, my late father Jack and I had the vision to purchase an old church in Dilworth. Our intent was to preserve the integrity of the building while creating a great new restaurant. Much like the church and its congregations had for over a century, we wanted to serve the community, its charities, our neighbors and to be a part of watching it grow. We’ve had the pleasure of serving Governors, distinguished other politicians from around the world, celebrities of all types of entertainment, nationally recognized sports stars and coaches. Over the 22 years, we’ve probably married over 400 couples, all are still together. I’m proud to say we’ve entertained Fire Station #2, our next-door neighbor, every year on September the 11th in appreciation for their everyday sacrifice to the Dilworth community. For every business owner, your employees are the backbone of your success and longevity. I’d like to thank Sonia-22 years. Blake, Melanie 20+ years. Joel, Rodi, Jeff, Ramsey 15+ years. Your dedication has been the reason we’ve survived 9/11, the financial crisis of ‘08/’09, health issues and now a damn pandemic. Thank you all.”

Kathleen Purvis is a longtime writer who covers food and culture in the Charlotte area.

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