As we progress into the new year, how can we, as individuals, make a difference for small businesses in Rowan County?
Although January is notorious for being the soft month in the restaurant business and adding in the new state regulations prohibiting alcohol sales after 9 p.m., our High Rock Lake restaurants are counting on the good people of Rowan County more than ever.
I wanted to put my money where my mouth is, so over the New Year holiday weekend my husband and I joined our neighbors and ventured out for brunch at Waters Edge Dock and Grill, 257 Boat Club Lane, Salisbury. We enjoy the updated look of a clean, industrial vibe of the lakeside restaurant; I was anxious to try the Bloody Mary bar, and was not disappointed. All of us enjoyed our brunch orders and raved about the eggs benedict, smothered chicken, Monte Cristo sandwich, and pontoon poppers. And worth a mention from one of our dining companions, where can you order a Monte Cristo sandwich, done right? Yes, right here on High Rock Lake!
The menu is a must try. The restaurant’s ‘vibe’ is original for Rowan County – casual, upscale dining offering steaks, seafood, shrimp & grits, with a variety of eclectic items like poutine, Wisconsin cheese curds, and coconut shrimp. Waters Edge offers pizza, wings, fries, and burgers of course for lunch, dinner, or late-night fare.
WATERS EDGE BAR & GRILL, A LOT CLOSER THAN YOU THINK
Co-owners Mikey Wetzel and Todd Littleton purchased the former High Rock Boat and Ski Club building in November 2019 with plans to rebrand and refresh the lakeside restaurant.
The vision was to create the premier waterfront dining experience on our very own High Rock Lake. The rebrand incorporated a name change that says exactly what the restaurant is – water’s edge, with a much different feel from the former establishment, the logo featuring vintage water skiers. The entire dining room and bar area was moved to have panoramic views of the lake. Isn’t that why we want to frequent a lake side restaurant?
Diners can come by boat or car, so you do not need to live on the lake to come out and appreciate the water views of the state’s second largest lake. By the way, if you are coming from West Rowan it is a 20-minute car ride, and much less from downtown.
The original plan was to keep the restaurant open for its local patrons during the renovation. However, as the saying goes, best laid plans get turned around. The kitchen needed a complete reno and new equipment. The $50,000 budget eventually turned into $700,000 with new restrooms, garage doors all along the outside walls for a full outdoor ambiance, a larger bar, a 1,000 sq. foot event space, and new roof.
Due to the co-owners’ high standards, the restaurant was closed throughout the construction and had its much-anticipated opening in July 2020. “Our goal with Waters Edge was to introduce quality food, a different menu, and great entertainment to a broader audience; we want families to come out and have pizza night. Or we can be a fun date night. With our entertainment line-up we hope to entice those from outside of Rowan County to take a short drive over to the lake, it will be well worth it.
We are marketing Waters Edge as a ‘destination’ for dining; we want you to come in, try our food, catch up with friends and/or family. We have a game room with pool tables and a few other games. We have spaced our dining room to adhere to socially-distanced guidelines, accommodating 120 seats out of a normal occupancy of 300, and all of our staff are wearing masks as required by the state mandates,” said Wetzel.
The restaurateurs are just getting started, with 12 acres of property; the long-term goal is for Waters Edge to be open seven days a week serving lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks. Soon there will be a four-bedroom Airbnb on property, with lots of other ideas on paper for the future.
DOING THE RIGHT THING
Although Waters Edge opened during unprecedented times, the summer season was a success. “Summer 2020 showed us the investment was sound. We did decent business because of the lake traffic. We have two docks and saw lots of boaters come over to grab lunch and enjoy the views from our deck. Some even had food to-go to enjoy the rest of the afternoon on their boats. We still need to market ourselves to a wider audience. We want all demographics to be comfortable coming here.”
What is Waters Edge doing to accommodate those that prefer to dine at home? “We can do a take-out, but not all food works well as a ‘to-go’ item. We want our food to be consistently good and if our burger and fries travel in a ‘clam shell’ carton it may not be eaten at the level of our expectations. We have a ton of pizza being picked up for home consumption. That pizza oven is paying for itself. And let me tell you the stuffed mushrooms and cookie skillet dessert are done to perfection.”
We have 40 employees working here, all local Rowan County residents, and I have to say it is taking lots of blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of hope. Hindsight may serve that this venture may not have been the perfect time to open a restaurant, re-establish it with the lake scene, and not be eligible for PPP loans. Businesses seeking a loan must demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in gross revenue between one comparable quarter in 2019 and 2020. Well, being a new establishment, that locked Waters Edge out of the COVID relief fund.
“I guess looking back we didn’t need to rock the boat, Todd’s City Tavern is doing well, I’m good with Go Burrito, and here we have our new place. I don’t want to say how much we have lost because of the pandemic. But there are a ton of folks in our shoes and we can only keep doing what we do. We recently bought a billboard on I-85 in Salisbury pointing the direction to the lakeside restaurant. We know this will be a winning venture.”
JOIN YOUR COMMUNITY
With Waters Edge as the only full-service bar outside of the Salisbury city limits in Rowan County, per state law, customers consuming alcohol must be a member of the establishment. Memberships are $1 and it is simply a formality from a time gone by, but it’s a law sanctioned by each county and/or municipality, so the restaurant must implement the membership request.
Memberships do not have a qualifier such as lake resident, a specific zip code or any other restriction. “Anyone who enjoys fresh food, wants to stay awhile, and participate in our varied entertainment offerings as music bingo on Thursdays, live entertainment every Friday and Saturday, and karaoke on Sundays is welcomed at Waters Edge,” continued Wetzel. However, as of December 11, Governor Roy Cooper implemented an earlier curfew for onsite alcohol consumption sales, moving the cutoff to 9 p.m. for bars and restaurants. Just as many other states have mandated, Cooper’s curfew is an attempt to stem the rising tide of positive COVID-19 cases seen across N.C.
Wetzel, who also owns Go Burrito in downtown Salisbury, said restaurants must do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but he is concerned that the new regulations will be “little death knells for parts of the business. Normally, we book musicians for entertainment after the dinner rush, from 9 – 11 p.m. It’s a bit of a juggling act, booking decent entertainment with lighter crowds who may not come out for just a few hours with the bar sales stopping early. We may not be able to sustain the expense of added entertainment during a shorter time frame. And it’s difficult to enjoy dinner and have a conversation with music scheduled for earlier in the evening.”
LAKEVIEW FAMILY RESTAURANT
I would be remiss in not mentioning Lakeview Family Restaurant at Second Dutch Creek, 9185 Bringle Ferry Road, Salisbury.
New owners, Philip Hedrick and Jamie Peeler, took over the helm of the family restaurant in January 2020. What has changed in a year with COVID? Currently, the restaurant can accommodate 84 patrons, with social distancing. Curbside pickup is available, and several seniors have taken advantage of the service. Some of the menu items can be requested family style such as the Friday night special, ribs. There are several new menu items including mahi-mahi, steaks, fried oysters, and grilled salmon. Daily specials are featured on their Facebook page such as Fried Dipped Chicken on Wednesdays.
Throughout the pandemic, Lakeview has kept its employees on and has seen an increase in new folks stopping by, likely driving around the lake, especially during the summer and early fall months. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesdays. Breakfast is available on weekends only during winter, 7 – 10:30 a.m., with lunch and dinner being served until 8 p.m.
Between these two restaurants, whatever you are craving can be found. Let us help our Rowan County small business neighbors survive this time, one mouthful at a time. I hope to see you frequenting one of our lakeside restaurants. Enjoy the lake sights and sounds and be safe.
I would love to hear from you on what your favorite lake activity is, or someone that you would like me to feature in 2021.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to TKP Photography for generously taking and allowing us to use the photos in this blog post.
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