I can’t properly express how excited we are to be opening Sweet Taters Restaurant & Brewery! This is a project that we’ve been working on for several years now, and as I write this, we’re only a couple months out from our Grand Opening. All of the pieces and parts are falling in place, all of our deadlines are getting met, and what was once a tidy little house for one of the many mill families is turning into a welcoming gathering place for our guests! In my mind’s eye I can start to see how our staff will move through the building, where our friends will sit, which tables will be the good tables, and which part of the porch I’ll be stationed at. And in just a a little bit longer, I won’t have to imagine it; I look forward to meeting everyone coming through our doors!
And just like the mill house is coming along, so too is our website! We still have some work to do here, but the framing is complete and now we’re putting in the content and the pictures (and the blog posts!). So please keep coming back, and keep an eye out on our other sites – everything is getting updated daily and in some cases hourly. We’ve got some great thoughts on how to make this site a real community resource, and of course welcome any of your ideas or feedback.
And while I’ve been saying “We” and “I” so far, I haven’t actually take the time to introduce the team at Sweet Taters! We have bios and pictures up on the ‘Meet the Team’ site – that has a little info on the owners and employees, so please check that out. I am Chris Flora, the business manager for Sweet Taters, also known as the ‘Executive Mouth’ according to my wife. I will be working on the back end and spending as much time with our customers as I can. My wife Erin is our brewmaster, and will spending a lot of her time in our brewery. The third part of the collective “We” is my brother Greg Flora – he’s our restaurant manager and will be spending most of his time between the kitchen and in the dining rooms.
Our goal is to make Sweet Taters a place for everyone to come and feel comfortable, a place to meet new people and make new friends, a place to have good food, good beer, and good times! And we want the same thing for our online presence. We want this website and this blog to be a place where people can come together and discuss what’s important to us, what’s interesting – to carry the taproom conversation back to the living room. That means that our online presence isn’t about Sweet Taters, it’s about the community that includes Sweet Taters. Our Facebook page and twitter feed has some posts about our business, but a lot more about events happening in Rocky Mount or Eastern NC, or about the craft beer community. We post news about local farms, sweet potato recipes, and historical information about the Mills and Rocky Mount in general.
In other words, we post about things that are interesting to us, about topics that our friends tell us they’re interested in. From the very beginning, we wanted Sweet Taters to stand for something; we never wanted to be just a restaurant focused on the bottom line. So we decided on three Core Values that stand at the heart of the decisions we make: supporting local agriculture, integrating with the local community, and preserving the local history and culture. In fact, we had these ideals even before we had our name!
Supporting local agriculture in Nash County means sweet potatoes – we’re the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the nation. Of course buying produce from the farmer’s market is a great way to support local agriculture, but there’s a lot more to it than that. We’re going to be showcasing the farmers that provide our local goods on the website and on our menus. We’ll be doing interviews and photo journals as often as we can to show where our ingredients are coming from.
Integration with the local community is one of the ideals that really drew us to the Rocky Mount Mills project. There are so many residences in easy walking distance, and so many more apartments coming to the campus, and we want to be one of the gathering spots that people come to. That’s why we’re open seven days a week – we want to provide the community with a place to meet away from home and work, but at a convenient distance from both. It’s the idea of ‘the third place’ (where home is the first place, and work is the second), a place to meet with friends and family, free from the restrictions of work, where conversation can go wherever it needs to.
Preserving local history and culture is really at the core of Rocky Mount Mills campus. Many of the mill houses (the Sweet Taters building included) have lain abandoned for years, and especially since the flooding following hurricane Floyd. But the renovation project has swept over the area like a new Spring, preserving all of the fantastic historical details in its wake. We’ve had a chance to talk to so many people that grew up in these houses, like the Peele’s who lived at 1121 Falls Rd, or what is now Sweet Taters. We heard how Lemmie planted the pine tree that towers over our back porch, how he used to sneak out the front door while his parents were asleep to go hang out with his friends. We’ve been taking notes on this history, getting old family photos and getting plenty of material for future blog posts!