The name does not disappoint at “The PBJ Shop ”. I was looking forward to a peanut butter jelly sandwich served in a restaurant, perhaps with a little something more than just the routine peanut-butter-and-jelly, and that is what I got. Sometimes unfortunately, you get what you pay for.
The co-owners Corey and Shawn, who met a few years ago on Bardstown Road, hatched the idea that they would create a restaurant that served THE all-American sandwich, a “PB&J” - just like mom used to make, but with a twist, or maybe several, or maybe not…they may not have been sure then, and didn’t seem clear now. That is, if your mom used to prepare your sandwich in your college dorm room with a mini-microwave and whatever was found aging in the door of the fridge, and then added the title ingredients between bread. You were then set with a fond memory and future debt. When asked where the idea evolved, Corey admitted from “lack of cash” during college.
I personally love a dreamer and always root for the ‘little guy’. But from a customer’s point of view I also like to see execution. Everyone has heard a pal announce, “That was my idea!” or “I thought of that first!” but the friend/pal did not have the motivation to put their plan into action (think infomercial). The owners of The PBJ Shop opened their restaurant last Thursday, March 15th have yet to execute on their proverbial ‘Flobie’.
The PBJ Shop located on 440 S. 3rd Street has everything to offer for a new restaurateur: Good location, timing (NCAA tournament with new arena down the street), Derby, spring weather, a cute if not interesting idea, and of course ambition. We all love the ‘fantasy’; reality however, comes much quicker. Corey Spencer and Shawn Duall have perfected the art of dreaming without perfecting execution a real life restaurant.
After meeting in the Highlands area, the two college educated owners of The PBJ Shop decided to go back to their roots and create a restaurant based on “college dorm food”; deciding to embark on adventure where seasoned veterans fail throughout the world.
I believe that you get what you pay for, and the sign outside does read “The PJB Shop”. I would have giggled to walk in and see white linen tablecloths and then be served a peanut-butter & jelly sandwich on china by a bow-tied waiter as I got the joke. At the PBJ Shop, however you get the dorm-room experience.
In the back room there are movies projected on a blank wall (two as of now, “Star Trek” and “Avatar” on a loop) above a tangle of video game parts, and less furniture than found in suburban garage sale yet with less quality, the owners explained their business plan with a ‘build it, and they will come’ mantra. (Authors Note: I tried to check in via Facebook and the auto-correct almost had me post that I was having lunch at the "OBGYN Café" - as they hadn’t yet had time to register with Google Places - I did not post my location, not because of lunch or the humor, but having to explain it later to my wife.)
Sitting in the dark movie/dining room I asked Corey what the future holds, and there is no shortage of drive and ambition. The ideas and dreams kept flowing - dreams including deals with Slugger Field, building the largest PB&J sandwich on 4th Street Live, and a franchise in a couple of years. Shawn mentioned that they are a sponsor at the Kosair/Norton’s Kick-Ball Tournament in June, but beyond that he appeared to seem like just being there and having a restaurant was a good plan.
We concluded the interview as we walked toward the deli-style bar and they explained the difference between a DELUXE sandwich (extra peanut-butter & jelly which costs a dollar more) or the DOUBLE sandwich (same as a ‘deluxe’, but with three slices of bread like a club sandwich.)
I ordered the “Sizzling PBJ Sandwich” ($4), which includes bacon, honey on white bread with crust, and was featured on WHAS11 News  the previous morning. I was accompanied by my wife who ordered the Crunchy Monkey Sandwich ($4) which included bananas and peanuts. Other signature sandwiches that our entourage ordered included the “Mr. Salty” (with sprinkle of kosher salt); the “Full of It” (with slice of bologna); and PBJ Sushi. All items cost $3-$4 which our friends ordered with curious looks. The PBJ shop showcases it’s stable of four Cambell’s soups (in-a-can-but-can-be-heated) behind the bar, bags of chips, and various sandwich fillers. They will even make your sandwich with the limited options that a PB&J has to offer – white or wheat and with-or-without crust.
For all it's trips-and start-up-tumbles, while I sat there with four beautiful guests (which I invited), there were two new, and repeat customers. I didn't know if it was the curiosity, or the hospitality, but people wanted to take a look, and while there ordered a few brown bag lunches ($5) so these guys may be on to something.
I agree with the owners that the peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich has always been a classic combination and it pulls on the heart-strings from my own personal youth. The American spirit has always been driven by the idea of “I can do that,” even if only between slices of bread. When the dream fails however, the fault is generally not in the dream; it lies with the dreamers that cannot execute (and anchovies – no sandwich should include salty canned fish, seriously). Corey and Shawn look like they are having fun while pursuing their dream, and if they can encourage that spirit, and continue their drive, I wish them all the luck that hungry Louisville diners have to offer.
The owners of The PBJ Shop should be applauded for following their own memories of what comforted them through their college years, but unless however they can perfect, or at least improve that facade, I encourage the next dreamers to take their chance at the future vacant storefront on 440 South 3rd Street.
The PBJ Shop  is open Monday-Friday, 7:30am-4:30pm with free deliveries downtown and is available for catering. (502) 439-8443.
(Photo: Corey Spencer & Shaun Duall, curtosy of Kit Helton)