L&L Restaurant Equipment
3814 Charlotte Ave. 321-2200
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat.
At the risk of painting myself as a geographical elitist, I confess that Charlotte Avenue is not one of my most traveled routes, and unless you have cause to visit one of the businesses that line its gritty path, you may not get over that way very often either. Typically, I find myself there for either of two reasons. One is utilitarian: Charlotte offers the speediest straight shot from 12th Avenue South/Industrial Boulevard to 28th Avenue North, en route to Swett’s or Pop’s Pit Bar-Be-Q at 28th and Clifton. The other reason is more destination-oriented: an outing with my kids to Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, the beautifully restored, half-century-old drive-up burger and ice cream joint at 5301 Charlotte.
]No matter where I’m headed on Charlotte, I always zip right past Jiffy Lube, Wallboard Supply, Shurguard Storage and Anthony’s (formerly Al’s) Showplace, hardly giving them a second glance. But recently, a kitschy dinner table and four red Naugahyde-covered chrome chairs incongruously placed on a grassy knoll behind a chain link fence had me braking at 3814 Charlotte Ave., the site of L&L Restaurant Equipment.
Tamay Ozari is neither a chef nor a restaurateur, but as the owner of L&L, the native of Turkey makes as much of a contribution to Nashville’s dining habits as Randy Rayburn, Jody Faison and Rick Bolsom combined. “I know restaurants, and I understand the business,” he says with the broad, winning smile that marks his conversations (even, one suspects, when he is engaged in hard-edged wheeling and dealing).
Ozari came to Nashville in 1979, when he was 19, to attend Belmont College. “The only friend I had who had gone to America was in Nashville at Belmont, so that’s where I went,” he recalls. He didn’t stay in school long, however; in 1980, he opened Mr. Kabob on Church Street, perhaps a little ahead of the ethnic food curve in town. “No one even knew what a gyro was here,” he says with a laugh. “I had to educate my customers.” In the process, Ozari got a hands-on education of his own, learning the restaurant business from the inside out.
In 1985, while working for a competitor, he heard that L&L was for sale. Using some cash he had saved, he made the deal and within 90 days paid off the note. In 1996, he moved L&L from Second Avenue downtown to an old factory building on Charlotte, an expansive space with room to spare for the big restaurant equipment he stocks, along with used pizza ovens, coffee makers, dough machines, and rows and rows of chairs, tables and booths waiting for reupholstering or a fresh coat of paint. “These chairs are from Boston Market, those from F. Scott’s, the booths are from Blackstone, the salad bars from Quincy’s,” he notes during a walking tour of the 55,000-square-foot space. L&L is on seven acres of property, so there’s plenty of room for expansion.
From the entrance, the space is split in halfto the left is the new equipment and furnishings, to the right the used. “Anybody can open a restaurant with a lot of money,” he says. “It is a lot harder to open with a little money. We help small business owners open without a lot of money. Then, when they make a lot of money, I buy back the used equipment, and they buy new equipment from me! It’s a great deal, like recycling!”
In the new section of the warehouse is everything from 12-burner gas stoves to minus-10-degree reach-in freezers to Turbo Flow gas convection ovens. “If you have a professional kitchen, we have the equipment,” he says, pointing out bun racks, taco fryers and 60-quart mixers. “We have slicers, dicers, tenderizers.”
But any foodiewhether a trained professional or a weekend warriorwill find plenty to whet the culinary appetite at L&L, all at prices below department, specialty or even big box stores. There are panini grills, espresso makers, shiny Nexelon shelving, bar stools, immersion blenders, coffee urns, professional knives, chef jackets and service pieces. If you do a lot of entertaining, L&L sells simple white china pieces by the dozen: $38.99 for 9-inch plates, $35.49 for rimmed soup bowls and $37.79 for coffee mugs. Glassware, stemware and flatware by the dozen are also a bargain hunter’s dream.
Just in time for the season, L&L has an inclusive supply of DCS outdoor cooking systems, as well as outdoor furniture. Ozari is also in the process of adding a line of professional cooking equipment for the home chef.
Home is where he prefers to do most of his own eating. “I know everything about most of the restaurants in this town. I know when they are opening and when they are closing. They tell me their menu, and I help them choose their equipment. But I am a very picky eater,” he says, smiling. “I have a few places that I like, that are consistent. But I am a great cook, so I’ll usually eat at home. I’ve been in so many kitchens. I like my own best.”