A Tale of 3 Cities: Success Stories Show Countywide Entrepreneurship
Three business owners have succeeded in enterprises as diverse as the towns where they live.
Business startups are vital in all sectors of Moore, where a potpourri of health care, higher education, military transitions, leisure and private investment co-exist. “I think the key is we’re an interesting anomaly as a county. We have something that is appealing here and is a reason why talented folks should consider being here, as opposed to an urban lifestyle,” says Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress Economic Development.
Here are three success stories.
When Yianni Kakouras was 5, his father bought a restaurant in Robbins and commuted 80 miles one way from Charlotte to work. “And every time I had a chance to go with him, I’d go. And when I turned 14 in high school, I started to work there,” Kakouras says.
Robbins, population 1,180, is a 1.3-square-mile town in northern Moore County. Kakorus calls it laid back. “We kind of sustain ourselves,” he says. “We by no means have the kind of money that flows through other towns. The handshake still means something. It keeps you humble.”
Kakouras, 30, lives in Robbins and runs the restaurant — Carolina Fried Chicken and House of Pizza — and a gym, Flex Fitness, that he bought five years ago. His father, Pete Kakouras, also owns Pete’s Family Restaurant in Carthage.
“Robbins is a good place to invest,” Yianni says.
Twenty-six miles south of Robbins in Aberdeen, a paying hobby emerged from the sound of Louisiana music.
Janet Kenworthy, a 61-year-old grandmother, saw a necessity while working a New Orleans shelter kitchen after Hurricane Katrina: “People warmed to each other through dance. Music is absolutely essential to humanity.”
Kenworthy started The Rooster’s Wife as a series of house concerts. She used postcards for invitations and took up donations for musicians who performed in her home. The business added outdoor concerts before Kenworthy, a 27-year resident of Aberdeen, and her mother, Priscilla Johnson, bought and renovated an old fabricating building downtown and moved in 2009. She welcomes audiences ages “zero to 99,” she says.
“It’s extremely important to me to support the community of live music,” she says. “We get music lovers of all ages.”
The median age in Aberdeen is 34.4.
“When we were outside, we had the younger people because it was less expensive,” Kenworthy says, “and we’re offering things to appeal to a younger audience, like a Friday night show that’s cheaper and an open mic night once a month.”
She brings in Grammy Award winners, such as country music’s Asleep at the Wheel or musician Howard Levy, to The Rooster’s Wife. “One thing I like about live music is it will never be performed the same way again,” Kenworthy says.
Nearly 20 N.C. farms, from Carthage to Carrboro to Bear Creek and Eagle Springs, dot the list of places where ingredients are gathered for Mark Elliott’s upscale restaurants in Pinehurst and Southern Pines: Peaches, naturally, he says, and sweet potatoes and herbs along with homemade goat cheese.
“I have a guy called Tomato Joe. I’ve known these farmers for years,” Elliott says. “And once a week, we bring in our milk, our cream, our buttermilk. It’s nice to be able to tell their story.”
Elliott, 50, who was in the Best Chefs America book in 2013 and winner of Best Dish N.C., owns Elliott’s on Linden, opened in 2000; The Sly Fox Gastropub; Elliott’s Provision Company; and a catering business. He employs more than 60 people and, because of his immersion in the land of high-dollar golf, makes a strong profit.
Some of which he gives away.
He donates to schools, mainly. “Anything I can do to change somebody’s life in education, it’s a big deal to me, so I’m constantly supporting schools,” he says. “It’s things to help people get ahead in the world.”
His restaurant crowds, he says, have changed with the times.
“It’s evolved. The whole area has evolved. It was a retirement community, but it’s nice to see youth come into the area,” he says. “So naturally, I’ve evolved with the food.”
(Article by Kathy Blake. 2nd in a series of 3 articles from Business North Carolina’s Moore County Spotlight, a special section in the magazine’s January 2019 issue. Read the full article here. Photos from Business North Carolina.)
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