JJ’s ToGo plans soft opening in Centralia on April 15, full opening on April 22: ‘We’re really excited to bring a fresh feel to the community’


When Jessica Britton’s sister-in-law asked her to meal prep lunches for her out of her tiny Chehalis apartment in November 2021, Britton didn’t imagine that fulfilling the simple request would lead her to start a business.

And it might not have, if not for a timely late-night epiphany.

“I don’t have any other explanation besides, like, the Lord woke me up, and I just had the JJs logo in my head and I knew what I wanted to do,” Britton said.

Originally from California, Britton had fond memories of her late husband buying $7 burritos for lunch from a Latina woman driving her van to different local mechanics shops every day.

“When I woke up that night, I knew I wanted to do that but like, times 10,” Britton said. “I’m not going to sell you a $7 burrito. We’re going to do a full-fledged meal for a different price.”

JJs ToGo, which is set to open its first brick-and-mortar location at 202 N. Tower Ave. in Centralia on Monday, April 15, officially started two-and-a-half years ago with Britton taking to-go meal orders out of her 10-foot galley kitchen in her apartment as a side gig under a cottage license.

“My first day selling lunches, I just cold-called (and) I walked into businesses,” Britton recalled.

“I would take my business cards … and I would go down Market and Tower and I would put my business cards on all the cars. And that was kind of how we got a little bit more known.”

Jessica Britton’s sister-in-law, Devin Britton, soon moved to Lewis County from California and became a partner in the business.

“She needed help because she was getting, you know, bigger and bigger and busier and busier. And she would call me. Like, ‘When are you going to move here? I need help,” Devin Britton recalled.

With Jessica and Devin Britton as co-owners and managers of the business’s three employees,  JJ’s ToGo has seen tremendous success over the last two-and-a-half years operating out of Jessica Britton’s apartment, averaging over 100 lunch orders a day by the end of March 2024.

“That’s just off of direct message orders. That’s not even with a website. That’s with a couple staff members and renting a kitchen for three hours a day,” Jessica Britton said.

In January 2024, the Brittons learned that recent changes to the cottage license JJs had been operating under meant that they could no longer base the business out of Jessica’s apartment.

“We started praying,” Jessica said. “We knew that there was something coming, we just didn’t know what.”

The Brittons looked at 12 possible locations before settling on purchasing a food cart, despite it not feeling like the right fit.

“We never wanted a food truck. That was not the plan, but we ran out of options,” Jessica said.

While on the phone with her mom the morning Jessica was set to drive to Bend to purchase the food truck, she received a Facebook message from Dawn Merchant.

“She asked me ‘Do you know who I am?’ And I’m like, ‘No?’” Jessica recalled.

With just 30 minutes before she had to leave to go pick up the food truck, Jessica called Merchant, who she then learned was the owner of Dawn’s Delectables & Sandwich Shoppe in downtown Centralia.

“She just asked if I can meet with her … We knew, once I called my sister and my mom, I’m like, ‘We have to meet with her at least to see what she has to say.’”

The Brittons canceled their reservation on the food truck and met Merchant at 204 N. Tower Ave. in Centralia on Jan. 15.

“It was after celebrating the Shoppe’s 10th anniversary last year that I began to seriously contemplate what would be next for me,” Merchant said in a February news release announcing the closure of Dawn’s Delectables after nearly 11 years in business. “Continuing to grow the business more with the many ideas I still have in my pocket, or to take a much-needed break and travel after a successful and fun, but demanding, 10-plus years.”

In her meeting with the Brittons, Merchant went through several options for passing her downtown location off to JJs To Go.

“Just from literally the get-go,there was nothing but peace about it. It’s been the most seamless transaction and switch-over of anything that we’ve ever dealt with,” Jessica said.

“In meeting with and talking to Jessica and her team over the past few months, we are confident that JJ’s ToGo will continue to provide wonderful lunch options for our downtown customers and community,” Merchant said in the February news release.

The Brittons officially got the keys from Merchant on April 1 and have spent the last couple of weeks moving into the space.

“It’s going to make Tower Avenue bigger and better,” Jessica said of JJs’s opening its brick-and-mortar location. “It’ll set the tone to start kind of revamping and livening up this street.”

Of Merchant, Jessica said, “We’re not even at three months since we met her but it feels like we’ve known her forever. She’s become a friend (and) a mentor. She answers the phone any time we call her, she comes in and checks on us. It has been a blessing.”

JJ’s ToGo officially opens for business with a soft opening on Monday, April 15, with the cafe opening at 9 a.m. and the restaurant opening at 10:30 a.m.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. on April 22, which will mark the start of a 7 a.m. opening time for the cafe.

“Obviously, we’ve never done this before. It’s going to be rocky in the beginning, but we just want everybody, (and) we know that they will, (to) bear with us and kind of go easy on us,” Jessica said. 

JJ’s ToGo has brought its staff total up to 18 for the opening of the new location, with many members of the Dawn’s Delectables team staying on. The Brittons remind patrons that JJ’s is not simply a rebranding of Dawn’s.

“We’re working closely with (Dawn Merchant) and she’s been so generous to smoothly and peaceful do this with us, (but) this is a whole different restaurant and business,” Jessica said. “We’re really excited to bring a fresh feel to the community.”

The Brittons don’t intend for the opening of JJ’s ToGo’s first brick-and-mortar location to be the end to the business’s growth.

“We definitely have plans. We don’t want just one location. There will be many locations, but this will be the home base where you can get our baked goods (and) we’ll have a cafe side … We want this to become where everybody feels comfortable (to) hang out,” Jessica said.