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Soup and kindness: Business owner delivers soup to longtime friend

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

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Uncertainty seems to be the theme during the recent health crisis, but one thing’s for sure, Jonesborough resident Ignacy Fonberg will always want his soup from Main Street Cafe and its owner, Zac Jenkins, is dedicated to making sure he gets it.

“I go there because I like the food and I like the people who own the place and who work there,” Fonberg said. “It started when Zac’s parents owned the place. I have been going there for 30 years.”

For the first time in 30 years, a pandemic has changed the way restaurants do business with added curbside services and seating guests inside at half capacity. But Jenkins makes sure that Fonberg still gets his soup by delivering it to his door on a regular basis.

“We have to help our neighbors anyway we can,” Jenkins said. “Right now is the time that everybody has to think about each other and not just ourselves and make sure we are taking care of people.”

Normally, Fonberg comes to Main Street Cafe at almost the same time each day and orders a bowl of soup — anything but tomato, which he’s never been a fan of —  and talks with Jenkins and his wife, Kati.

“He comes in Monday through Friday — and I mean he misses three days a month,” Jenkins said. “He comes in any time between 2:30 and 3 p.m. and eats a bowl of soup, a cup of coffee with milk and he usually has two cups of coffee. There are two (soups) he really loves. That is the Italian sausage and vegetable and the white bean and ham. Those are two of his absolute favorites.”

Jenkins said he’s known Fonberg all of Jenkins’ life, but that the two got to spend a lot more time together after the business owner bought the business from his parents.

“I was there a lot more at the end of the day and I would sit with him and talk and I’d have a cup of coffee,” Jenkins said. “We’ve been doing that for many years now. He’s actually bonded with my wife and we jokingly call him our adopted grandfather. It’s just one of those things. You just click with him. He’s really easy going and just fun to talk to.”

The routine has changed a bit now that Jenkins polishes off his work day by making his one and only daily delivery to Fonberg where the two will sit on the porch for a chat.

“It is very important because everybody in Jonesborough, we just help each other,” Fonberg said. “It would be easier for him to bring me the soup rather than for me to drive down and get the soup so he brings it to me.”

Fondberg is originally from Poland and moved here with his wife, who was a biochemistry professor, after meeting her in Boston. Fondberg has a master’s degree in physics from Yale and spent years working in computers before he and his wife fell in love with East Tennessee.

“The main decision belonged to my wife because she was one of the people who started the medical school here,” Fonberg said. “I was a computer person so I said I could probably make my living there too. I came to see the area and I said, ‘Listen we have to go here. This is a beautiful place.’”

In addition to the soup from Main Street, Fonberg said he loved the people in Jonesborough and the history that is right outside his door.

“There is a lot of individuality and a lot of positive history,” Fonberg said. “I like the fact, for example, half of  Jonesborough was for the Union during the Civil War and we had here the first paper devoted exclusively to the ending of slavery. And I have run into very nice people since we landed here.”

The fact that Jenkins delivers soup to Fonberg each day might not end up being recorded as a part of Jonebsorough’s “positive history”, but Jenkins just hopes watching out for others continues while the world works through the pandemic and maybe even into the days when Jenkins is Fonberg’s age and just wants his favorite soup from the comfort of his own home.

“You know, I hope when I’m 80 years old some 32-year-old kid likes me enough to bring me soup,” Jenkins said. “We just do it because it’s the right thing to do and I’m happy to do it.”