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Changing of the guard in downtown

Farm-to-table restaurant taking space occupied by Main Street Cafe

Luisa Gueimunde enjoys a coffee and peruses the catering menu for Harvest Moon Grille on Friday.

Luisa Gueimunde enjoys a coffee and peruses the catering menu for Harvest Moon Grille on Friday.

ELIZABETH HEFFNER
Staff Writer

Downtown Lincolnton is welcoming a new restaurant to the culinary scene.
Harvest Moon Grille’s owner and head chef, Cassie Parsons, and business manager Natalie Veres met with community members at their new location, the former Main Street Café, on Friday.
After nine years of business, Main Street Café owner Ginger Weaver decided to close her restaurant and begin a new chapter in her life.
“I’m ready to spend time with my grandbaby, travel and let someone start something new here,” Weaver said. “I thank my customers for their nine years of support and my employees for their great work.”
According to Weaver, she approached Parsons earlier this year about the idea while Parsons was having breakfast at the café, and she jumped on the offer.
For the past year, Parsons has been actively searching for a venue in Lincolnton for her farm-to-table restaurant.
“The original building that I was looking at used to be a beautiful gas station that housed a deli as well,” Parsons said. “We initially were looking at that building and felt like the aesthetics were kind of a historic, downtown, funky, fun interesting building, but as we got in there and started investigating the practical costs of renovating the building and bringing it up to code, it made everyone in the transaction pause. I felt that, personally, the gentleman who owned the building — he would never make any money back by the time we spent money up-fitting it and all that, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it not being a big win for everybody. And we felt like spending that much money on a building we didn’t own was not in our best interest, because really, we want to spend our money on the food.”
According to Parsons, the idea behind Harvest Moon Grille is to bring fresh and local food to the community.
“We’re hoping that when you come in and taste our food, you’re getting a change to taste our region — Lincolnton-region food,” she said. “And we’re really excited about that, because there are some beautiful farms in this area with incredible stuff.”
From there, Parsons began looking at the old Lucy’s building in town.
“Because we really wanted to open a place in Lincolnton, we had great momentum and people were really asking us to come here, we decided to switch gears and compromise, I guess you’d say, by finding more a building with a shell,” she said. “But, 30 minutes before we were supposed to sign on the building lease, I came in (to Main Street Café) and saw (Weaver). Ginger came up and said, ‘Hey, are you still looking for a restaurant?’ And we were so surprised with the proposition.
“The building we were looking at, Lucy’s, really wasn’t fitting the model we truly wanted for Harvest Moon Grille,” Parsons said. “And then coming in here and realizing that Ginger wanted to sell was a blessing. That was a godsend.”
With plans to begin renovations over the next week, Parsons hopes to have the restaurant up and running near the end of July.
“We’ll be closed on Mondays, but we’ll be open for breakfast and lunch the first couple of months until we get our ABC license,” she said. “And then once we get our ABC license, we’ll transition into lunch and dinner, having brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Parsons said, depending on the economics and community interest, the restaurant could ultimately operate on a breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule.
While Parsons has not completed her menu for the restaurant, she is eager to bring new dishes to the city, describing her food as “a southern twist with a culinary edge on it.”
“I’ve got a new sandwich called Oink Moo Cluck,” she said. “It’s a pork, beef and chicken sandwich that is packed high and is quite an eclectic sandwich. It has Korean pickles on it, lettuce, tomato, onions and Tika Romanian Aioli, and homemade ketchup and mayonnaise with a little mustard. It’s my version of a southern mayonnaise mustard ketchup sauce.”
Parsons will also be doing raw juicing, allowing customers to purchase shots of carrot juice with a little ginger or cucumber and mint juice, or beet juice with pink lady apples.
“You can get something yummy and crazy good or you can get something that’s going to be a more healthy option,” she said. “We definitely will be pork driven because we are pork farmers.”
With prices between $5-$13, Parsons hopes to offer eclectic, local food options at an affordable price.
“Our food will be fresh, yummy and will economically benefit our community, and that’s really what we’re about,” Parsons said.
Lincoln Economic Development Association and the Downtown Development Association also played significant roles in finding Harvest Moon Grille a downtown home.
“Kara Brown from LEDA really saw our vision of bringing a cool, hip restaurant and another alternative to the local food scene,” Parsons said.
Downtown Development Association committee chair Brooke Sherrill, along with other committee members, worked with Parsons to give a $35,000 loan to the restaurant.
“We, as DDA, are hoping that this is the start of many new projects in downtown and that the city government will see how much this helps our growth and will start allowing the leftover grant monies from the various rehabilitation grants to go back in that fund again,” Sherrill said. “This same type of practice occurs in many other towns that are part of the NC Main Street Program, however, where ours is a loan program, many are grant programs. We want to help bridge the gap for entrepreneurs that want to locate in our town but that can’t pull all of the financing together from conventional methods.”
While Sherrill said banks have to meet specific criteria for lending, the Downtown Development Association is able to take into account the financials as well as the business’s motivation, reputation and their long-term benefit to the downtown area.
“We have worked on several projects over the last four years, but none of them have quite met our criteria until this one came along,” Sherrill said.
Initially, Parsons plans to hire a staff of 12 employees, with a full staff of 24 employees once the restaurant is up and running.
“We’re looking for smart, honest and cool people with a willingness to learn and get behind the product we’re selling,” Parsons said.
For more information about Harvest Moon Grille and its mother company, Farmer Baker Sausage Maker, visit www.farmerbaker.com.

Chef Cassie Parsons.

Chef Cassie Parsons.

Images courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News

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