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The History Behind The Yellow Deli

By Catherine Corcoran

CHATTANOOGA ( UTC students pay a visit to the Yellow Deli. Conveniently located on campus, the Yellow Deli provides tasty food and a whimsical environment to its patrons. Although the restaurant has become a staple to the UTC community, not many know its background. “I don’t know anything about the restaurant other than some rumors I’ve heard about the group” said Janita Echagile. Janita, a junior, at UTC is a fan of the Deli but is unfamiliar with the actual history of the franchise.

The group behind the popular sandwiches is a Christian group called the Twelve Tribes. The Twelve Tribes was established here in Chattanooga in the early 1970s by  Eugene “Gene” Spriggs. El, an individual who has been with the group for 32 years explains the background of the Yellow Deli and how it got started. “When we started, we didn’t intentionally become a community,” Said El. 

Ruhamah, a member of the Twelve Tribes explains a brief history of the group.

“It was just a man and his wife in Chattanooga, they loved the lord back when we called him Jesus,” El said. “They wanted to share their love in their hearts with people so they started having bible studies in their home, passing out handwritten cards and people started coming to them, a lot of young people, ” she said. El continued to explain how the group created the franchises to generate revenue and spread the gospel.

The Twelve Tribes website elaborates in further detail the background, beginning and beliefs of the Christian community. The Twelve Tribes are a self described “emerging spiritual nation” who refer to Jesus as his Hebrew name, Yahshua. The group follows the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and choose to “live like the early disciples in Act chapters two and four.” 

The founder of the franchise and Twelve Tribes, Gene Spriggs opened the first Yellow Deli location on Brainerd Road in May of 1973. According to the Yellow Deli website, Gene and his wife Marsha created the restaurant to bring people together to experience the pure love of God. The Yellow Deli got its name from a passage in the Bible, Genesis 1:3. This passage explains how God created light in the darkness. The Twelve Tribes believe yellow was the first color appearing on earth and thus the Yellow Deli was named. 

According to a booklet titled, The Yellow Deli Story the color yellow is special to the group for many reasons. The Twelve Tribes believe “yellow was the beginning of God’s solution, and it was the beginning of our solution too.” The Twelve Tribes now have established communities in several states and even other countries. They operate small scale farms, home school their children and embrace a TV and drug free environment while following in the footsteps of God.

About Catherine Corcoran

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