by Melissa Moore France
Cara Zarecor, owner of White Squirrel Deli & Sweet Shoppe, has perfected the recipe for the just right mix of “slap your mama” Southern comfort foods, creative combination deli sandwiches, and “melt in your mouth” bakery confections. She sea
sons all of her scrumptious menu choices with warm, small town friendliness and serves them up in a cool, coffee house atmosphere, where, of course, coffee and espresso are brewing and milk is frothing. The deli also offers a selection of gift items made by local artisans and an assortment of Olde Tyme Candy, a sweet walk down memory lane. Located at 515A South Poplar Street in Kenton, Tennessee, this deli is the go-to eatery for farmers and foodies and everyone in between.
Sandwiches of the day – subs, croissants, or honey-wheat wraps – include The Rocky Top, The Woo Pig Sooie, and The Barnyard. Classic Poppy Seed Chicken, Baked Chicken’n’ Dumplins, and Italian Baked Ziti are among the Grab’n’Go Hot Lunch of the day selections. The menu also offers Orchard Chicken Salad (a best seller), Fresh Homemade Tuna Salad, Southern Pimento Cheese, and chopped salads. Homemade soup or chili is also available. Recent additions are Paninis made with focaccia bread and Reuben sandwiches built with beef pastrami, fresh sour kraut and homemade Thousand Island dressing. A Greek salad comprised of organic mixed greens is also new to the lineup.
“I call myself a Southern cook,” Cara said, “but I’ve tried to move with the times. Food gets boring. I am always trying something new.” She is proud to serve quality, whole-muscle deli meats, which are sliced in-house. Bulk orders are also sold.
This culinary gem opened in April 2016, and Kenton, home of the white squirrels, was fortunate enough to be chosen as its location due to a hometown tie. Cara is originally from Arkansas, and as an adult she lived in Dyersburg, Tennessee, for almost 20 years. Then, she married Glenn Zarecor, whose grandparents, Wade and Bonnie Zarec
or, had farmed near Kenton. Glenn spent half of his childhood in Knoxville and the other half in Virginia, but he visited his grandparents often. When he was a junior in high school, his family moved back to Kenton. He commuted to UTM and earned an Ag Science degree. After college he began his career with the USDA Farm Services Agency. He has been a County Executive Director of a Farm Services Agency somewhere in Tennessee since he was 21-years-old. When the director position over Lake and Obion counties needed to be filled, Glenn came home.
“While we were dating, I visited Kenton for the first time, and I asked ‘Where do ya’ll eat?’ The romantic notion of opening a restaurant was born,” Cara said. “I’ve heard people say that if the restaurant bug is in you – you have to do it.” Evidently she was exposed to the bug as a child. Cara’s mom owned and operated Linda’s Kitchen, a meat -and -three, in rural northeast Arkansas, which served breakfast and lunch. “I’ve always been in the shadow of my mother. She liked to cook, garden, and sew. She was a modern pioneer. She believed ‘if you can make it – you make it.’ My cooking is a little different from hers. I learned technique and mechanics from her, like not having to measure everything.”
The Zarecors bought a house (built by Glenn’s great-uncle) and property in Kenton with several pecan trees and plenty of room for a garden. Their children are Lizzie, Bailey, Jacob, and Payne. The building they bought to house the deli had been used to store antiques and other odds-and-ends. “My husband is a jack-of-all-trades so we were able to use some of the items left behind for nostalgia’s sake in our remodel.” Cara con
fesses, “I Pinterest my heart out. I love Pinterest.” A door is now the top of a large coffee table in the establishment’s cozy sitting area, an old ironing board painted black makes a unique “Open Mike” sign, and another large old door is actually incorporated into a wall.
Cara worked for an investment broker while raising her children, but she studied art in college. All of her life experience, education, and creative abilities are the perfect blend for her current endeavor. “The deli is my first experience as an entrepreneur. It is the hardest I’ve ever worked, but I love it,” she said. “It is the American Dream to be your own boss and do
what you want to do.”
Plan a visit to the White Squirrel Deli & Sweet Shoppe. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Find the deli on Facebook to get up-to-date information about daily specials or go to www.whitesquirreldeli.com for more information. Once you experience the deli’s quality, homemade food with Cara’s creative flare – you’ll be back.