Built for the locals
BAKERSVILLE – Fredrick Brown would often ride a motorcycle from his home in North Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Bakersville.
“We would get to Bakersville and we couldn’t go any farther because we had a three-hour ride back,” he said. “The first time I came through here, Steve Miller was building what became Harvest Market.”
A couple years passed and now Brown lives full-time in Green Mountain and Saturday, Dec. 23, officially opened his own restaurant, Mountain Holler Steak & Seafood, in that same building.
Brown has owned and operated several restaurants in his life, the most recent being the Carolina Café in Gaffney, South Carolina. He officially sold that restaurant in June.
Brown said he is well aware of the previous restaurants that operated out of Mountain Holler’s location, Harvest Market, which closed in November 2017, and Stella’s, which closed Sept. 15, 2018.
“In the restaurant business it’s about hitting them where they’re not, and we couldn’t find another one like this in the vicinity that was serving steaks and seafood like we are serving,” he said. “My last restaurant was in the middle of an old peach field off Highway 11 between Gaffney and Chesnee, so we tripped everyone to that restaurant and it was very successful.”
Mountain Holler opened to very little fanfare, which Brown said was by design.
“We wanted to open quiet,” he said. “There’s no sense in having a big rush and then you don’t handle your business right. You don’t get in the restaurant business to make people wait extra time for food or wear yourself out.”
The name Mountain Holler pays homage to his father’s Kentucky Heritage.
“Everything is a holler in Kentucky,” he said. “The big debate = was whether it was called a hollow or a holler here and we went back-and-forth about it for probably a month. A guy that has done a lot of the construction work for me was talking to his wife on the phone and he told her he was ‘down here in the holler.’ So, I knew then we were good with the name.”
Brown was obviously not deterred from opening a restaurant in an area that has seen its share of closings over the past few years and, in fact, he is optimistic about its longevity.
“We take an approach that there’s 15,000 people in Mitchell County, 11,000 in Yancey County and it is kind of the same scenario I was in with my last restaurant,” he said. “You have a number of people that may only eat out on special occasions three or four times a year, then there are some who eat out three or four times a week and some only on Fridays and Saturdays. So, once you get to whatever that number is your restaurant is constantly full.”
Brown expects Mountain Holler to eventually employ around 20-25 people and the restaurant can seat around 85 people, which is about half the size of the Carolina Café.
“We are operations-based,” he said. “What we have done here is redesigned the kitchen to get rid of the bottleneck. I don’t care how good of a cook you are, if you can’t get hot food to the table in an efficient manner it doesn’t matter. We understand operations and we come from high volume, like 50,000-60,000 a week, not that doing less is any easier, but it needs to be set up to be easier. We have spent most of our time and energy in the kitchen.”
As for the food served at Mountain Holler, Brown admits he’s not in the business of reinventing the wheel.
“You have to be what people want,” he said. “There’s nothing on the menu people can’t pronounce. We’re not an elite establishment. We’re serving steak and potatoes, seafood and Cole slaw and trying to do it as best we can. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s a restaurant built for locals. If you love it now, it will only get better because we think what we are doing is a good fit for this place. We’re here for the community. You don’t get much satisfaction out of owning a restaurant except for making people’s day with it.”
Mountain Holler Steak & Seafood
ADDRESS: 1284 Highway 226 South, Bakersville
HOURS: 4-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
(Menu available on website)