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Within the next week, the paper will come down from the windows of Carolina Cheese Co. as the new owners unveil a menu of changes that will eventually include full brunch and dinner service.
“I remember when Carolina Cheese was strictly retail and it was great because you’d go there for a great bottle of wine or imported cheese. Growing up here, but living and working abroad, I thought the selection in Wilson has been sparse,” said co-owner Mike Moore. “What we want to do is bring back a little of the retail, but also have a fresh market of prepared foods.”
Carolina Cheese was born in 2007 in Heritage Crossing as a retail store with gourmet products, but within a year, the then-owners opted to add a selection of deli sandwiches to the menu. It relocated to Brentwood in 2012, adding a variety of hot food items to the menu, but the owners put the business on the market last year and Richard Millinder bought it in November. Moore and Millinder kept the eatery open for about two weeks before deciding to temporarily close it to allow for a variety of upgrades.
“Some of the equipment was in pretty bad disrepair, so we took that out and added some new equipment to create more functionality,” Moore said. “We have a dish machine now and some equipment in the kitchen like a grill and a steamer that helps us be able to produce a little more of a dynamic menu than just sandwiches.”
Both men have roots in the community, years of experience in the restaurant business and a vision for broadening the food options in Wilson. After a stint as a police officer, Moore went to culinary school, then worked in and owned restaurants in San Francisco and Asheville.
“When I changed careers, I wanted to work with my hands and delve into a craft and I’m glad cooking has given me that opportunity,” Moore said. “If running a restaurant were just cooking food, man, it would be awesome, but there is a lot more to running a restaurant than that. It is a challenge, but a lot of fun. You’ve got to be a little crazy to do it, but it is something I truly enjoy.”
If all goes according to plan, the cafe will open for lunch on Saturday, but there are some moving parts that have to fall into place to make it happen. Moore said at the very least, it should be open within the next week or so and updates will be posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Initially Carolina Cheese will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays with brunch and dinner hours added in the coming months.
“Carolina Cheese has always had a lot of to-go orders and stuff, but their breakfast business was never really established and they did not have dinner hours,” Moore said. “What we want to do for lunch is very similar, but more on the market side with healthy prepared foods. We want to expand on that and shut down for breakfast, but open for brunch because there isn’t a lot of great brunch places in Wilson. We’ll offer a modern brunch menu, not just the country classics, and we’ll still have some of our deli sandwiches available.”
Many of the favorites — such as the Zippy Rooster sandwich — from the previous iteration of Carolina Cheese will still be served while Moore branches out, adding new items like a hybrid between a coastal Carolina shrimp burger and the New England lobster roll. Many of the items also will incorporate a variety of quality cheeses. A full menu is posted on the restaurant’s new website: www.hoopcheese.org/.
“We went with HoopCheese.org because that was the cheese you knew if you grew up in Wilson,” said Moore. “You didn’t know anything about brie or provolone or pecorino.”
“That was the cheese,” Millinder said with a laugh. “There was no other cheese I knew of.”
Four of the staff from the previous management have stuck with the restaurant, pitching in with work to the Brentwood shop or running the eatery’s bistro at Wilson Community College. Another handful of employees, including two culinary students from schools in Wilson and Nash counties, will join the staff as the business expands.
Moore said he’s optimistic Carolina Cheese will be part of a new generation of restaurants that offer residents and visitors a broad palate of flavors.
“Competition is a funny word. I don’t believe in competition. When we got to Asheville, there were four great restaurants and five breweries. Now there are hundreds of great restaurants and 20 breweries and I think the reason Asheville is on the map for foodies is the collaboration, not a sense of competition,” he said. “You can have more than one great food place in a town. There are enough people here to enjoy something about each and every restaurant period. I plan on bringing that sense of collaboration and constructive spirit here.”
Tickets are expected to sell out soon for the upcoming Wilson Chamber of Commerce annual meeting. The event will kick off at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Kennedy Theatre at Barton College with a cocktail reception. The event will honor Wilson Crisis Center Executive Director Nancy Sallenger and Greg Godard, the retired director of the Upper Coastal Plains Council of Government.
Tickets are $50 each or $150 for hosts, which includes admission and program recognition. Register by calling 252-237-0165.
“We’re exceedingly grateful for the support of Vidant Health as the presenting sponsor of the chamber’s 2019 annual meeting,” chamber President Ryan Simons said. “In their short time now in our market, they’ve made incredible strides to introduce themselves as a high-quality health care option for our region. We’re proud to call them a chamber champion and the presenting sponsor of this event.”
Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.