Chatter Box Cafe owner overcame adversity to build a thriving business in Chattanooga
Chattanooga, Tennessee —
Brandon Ellis grew up in Franklin, Kentucky. He spent a lot of time on his family's farm.
"I would walk behind the tractor, the tobacco planter, and if any of the tobacco plants went in crooked my job was to make sure it went in straight," Brandon told us.
Brandon says the lessons he learned on that farm have been with him his whole life.
"My family told me as long as I worked there would be nothing stopping me from having nice things," Brandon said. "When my grand dad died, my uncle died those influences became negative."
Brandon says he got into a lot of trouble. At one point he was facing forty-three years in prison.
"I was charged with trafficking cocaine, marijuana, controlled substances as well as I was already a convicted felon," Brandon said.
All of that was more than a decade ago Brandon's life has changed a lot since then. He is now the owner and operator of Chatter Box Cafe in Chattanooga. He has a food truck and catering operation, but back when he was in all of that trouble he heard about a program here in Chattanooga.
"I came here to go to Teen Challenge which is a second chance program/Christian discipleship program," Brandon said.
He says he was convicted of those charges, but with time served he was put on probation.
He's put all of that life behind him. Since that time he's grown his bar-b-que business. This is the third business he's started since coming to Chattanooga.
He created a restaurant loyalty app through the programs at CO.LAB. He's married, and has a five month old at home. Brandon also spends a lot of time mentoring kids. He wants to keep them from making the same mistakes he made ..
"The difference between my generation is we were raised to know right from wrong. We made decisions to do wrong, but at the end of the day we knew what we were doing wrong," Brandon said. "These kids don't know right from wrong. They're in survival mode."
He hires young people and he sometimes brings them out to a farm in Dulap. He keeps twenty pigs there that he uses for some of his events.
He says there are lessons to be learned out here for those he mentors and his own children.
"That's kinda my inspiration behind cooking," Brandon said. "Anything we ate I could pretty much tell you where it came from, and that's kinda non-existent these days. So, I like to show my kids a little of what I saw growing up."
He says helping young kids is not an option for him. He sees it as something he needs to do.
He says coming to Chattanooga and going through Teen Challenge changed his life.
Brandon's restaurant is open on Thursdays and Fridays, and he has his food truck at festivals just about every weekend.