Yellow deli

Yellow deli

The Yellow Deli was a youth outreach ministry of the Vine Christian Community, also called The Light Brigade, now known as the Twelve Tribes communities.


The Yellow Deli was founded by Elbert Eugene and Marsha Spriggs. It first opened at 3822 Brainerd Road in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1973 and stayed open 24 hours a day. Another at 1012 Market Street followed, and one on McCallie Avenue that was called "The Areopagus" after the place where the Apostle Paul debated Athenian philosophers in the Book of Acts, chapter 17. The Areopagus, with a stage, loft seating, offices and a recording studio, was the crown jewel of the Yellow Delis. Other Yellow Deli locations were also later established in Dalton and Trenton, Georgia, Mentone, Alabama, and Dayton, Tennessee.

A sign on the counter of the Brainerd Road Deli read: "Need a warm place to stay? Hitchhiking? Stay a day. We're just ordinary people who have found what it means to be free and to be real." Hitchhikers and runaways were welcomed to stay at the Vine House or other community houses in Chattanooga. Gene Spriggs was quoted as saying, "There's an underground among runaways. Whether they're in California or Florida, they compare towns and pass on tips. Word has gotten around that if you come through Chattanooga, go to the Yellow Deli and get food and lodging for a couple of days." One example of this can be found in the book, "The Shocking Kidnappings of Kirsten Nielsen", [] the autobiography of a young woman on the road who ended up staying with the Yellow Deli people. She is still with them 30 years later, now married and the mother of five children.


The interior of the Yellow Delis was quite distinct -- recycled barnwood with rustic wood decor and shanty-capped booths. It was described by Helen McDonald Exum as "...dimly lit with lights under shades that used to be bushel baskets. The paneling is of weathered barn siding. At the windows are gingham curtains, and at the side of the room is an old-fashioned wood-burning stove."


The menu of the Yellow Delis included hot meat and cheese deli-style sandwiches on onion rolls, kaiser rolls, pumpernickel or rye bread, served in a basket with a dill pickle and side of potato chips. Desserts included fruit salad, carrot cake, and banana bread. Soft drinks and papaya juice were also available. Deli order tickets bore the phrase, "We Serve the Fruit of the Spirit. Why Not Ask?"


Helen McDonald Exum, "Helen Exum's Memorable Meals" (Chattanooga, TN: Chattanooga News-Free Press, 1974).

External links

* [ The official nostalgia/retrospective site of the Yellow Deli]
* [] This is the website of the book, "The Shocking Kidnappings of Kirsten Nielsen", the autobiography of a young woman on the road who ended up staying with the Yellow Deli people. She is still with them 30 years later, now married and the mother of five children.
* [ What Or Who Do You Miss Most From Chattanooga's Past] (Includes the Yellow Deli)
* [ The Yellow Deli] A nostalgic blog entry remembering the Yellow Deli
* [ Mentone Alabama: A History] Mentions the Mentone, Alabama Yellow Deli
* [ Twelve Tribes] A look at the Twelve Tribes Communities, history section includes the Yellow Deli
* [] A vacationer's photo of a Yellow Deli interior, 1977
* [ Former member's critical account of Yellow Deli and Twelve Tribes practices]

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