Bullish on Craft beer & cocktails idea

Bullish on Craft beer & cocktails idea

Jack's of Wilson Craft Cocktail Bar
Jack’s of Wilson, N.C. is the fifth hospitality establishment fueled by demand for craft beer & cocktails and an inviting atmosphere.

“When my husband first told people he was going to open a craft beer concept in our small town of Wilson, N.C., a lot of people said ‘Nobody’s going to pay those prices! We want our Michelob Ultra and Budweiser!’

“But my husband Morkos is comfortable with risk-taking and he knew from visiting breweries in Raleigh that there was a real market for the concept, so in 2013 he opened Brewmaster’s of Wilson, N.C.”

And now five thriving concepts have sprung from that original idea in a portfolio that has been sometimes helped along by city planners with ideas and suggestions for downtown Wilson; including helping the couple identify their most recent acquisition, Jack’s of Wilson.

In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Molly Youssef shares her insight into the restaurant adventure.

Boxerbrand: Please tell me about your burgeoning empire.

Molly: Ha! My empire, that’s funny. None of this was planned. It all started before I met my husband, when he and his former business partner saw the opportunity to bring an upscale craft beer concept to Wilson, which is a small city of roughly 50,000 people, with a small-town kind of rural feeling.

His original vision was to serve only craft beer on tap and to-go beer and there wasn’t a plan to serve food. But the City of Wilson required food, thank goodness, because it turned out to be the best thing we could have done. Having food gave us reach to sectors of the community who don’t drink, and might have been wary to come into a place called Brewmasters. Over time we became integrated into the community through the school system— we have two children— and by getting involved in all kinds of community-based activity. Now that first Brewmasters has expanded into a much bigger footprint: we moved the first one in Wilson into a larger physical space, and opened a second Brewmasters in the town of Goldsboro, about 20 minutes away.

We’ve become so popular at both locations by a wide demographic of people, like, for example, we have a whole group of elderly women who host a lunch-club at Brewmasters and have been doing it for years.

Boxerbrand: How did social media help you get the word out about your business?

Holly: Morkos, from the very beginning, was adamant about social media and was posting everyday long before that was the norm in restaurants. He gained us a lot of exposure through the Internet, but we also joined community events to get the word out. We used to participate in an event called Taste of Wilson, where different restaurants give out samples of their menu. But we’re just too flat-out busy for that right now. And we’ve also done quite a bit of advertising.

Boxerbrand: Obviously it’s working! How did you go from one to five restaurants?

Molly: After the first Brewmasters expanded into a larger space, our landlord here in Wilson tipped us off that there was a space in Goldsboro opening up, so we investigated and discovered it was the perfect location to open our second Brewmasters.

We opened our third restaurant, called Ruckus, in February 2020. I’ll never forget that date because we were only open a month and a half before we were shutdown. When we reopened and as our downtown was undergoing redevelopment, our next concept, called The Hub, fell into our lap. There was a plan in place for a pizza concept downtown when the original restauranteur backed out. So they called us to ask if we wanted to get into pizza and we said sure!

With both Ruckus and The Hub we knew we needed to improve our skillset, so with the Ruckus concept we hired a consultant from Boston to develop our menu, cocktails and liquors. The consultant helped us create a restaurant that had the quality and feel of a bigger city restaurant, and our customers love it. With The Hub, my husband Markos and another employee went to pizza school in Chicago to learn to make pizza crust and sauce.

Boxerbrand: How did you decide to go upscale with your fifth restaurant?

Molly: Jack’s Restaurant had been around for 15 years when the original owner decided to sell it around the time of the pandemic. It was a hard time for fine dining restaurants. So the restaurant was sold to people who envisioned running it as silent partners, but when they discovered they would be working much more hands-on in the restaurant, they backed out and it became a wonderful opportunity for us to do something upscale.

Boxerbrand: How have you been pulling in customers?

Molly: We’ve built out social media with an investment in a husband-wife team who handles all our social media for all five restaurants. They take pictures and make videos throughout the week. For example, they’ll take a video of our bartender making a cocktail and post it to our social media, and they’ll also post pictures of our dinner specials. Our goal is to make sure our customers know what fun and exciting things we have going on, and we do quite a bit with Facebook and Instagram.

Boxerbrand: What makes you optimistic about the future of restaurants?

Molly: I feel like people will always need community and that while yes, you can get everything delivered and stay home, there’s a strong pull that people have to go to restaurants to be with friends or family.

When we decided to get your menu covers, that was a decision to we made to enhance the feeling of Jack’s Restaurant. I remember when we first got your sample packet in the mail and pulled them out. They were so beautiful we were a little worried they were too fancy for us. But they’re perfect! We love them!!

Jack’s Restaurant of Wilson, N.C. uses Boxerbrand Slenders menu covers in their table presentation. Thank you!

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