Eat Fresh, Eat Local, Eat Here
Not one, not two, but three fine F-words describe the new eatery in Southern Pines village: Farm. Fresh. Family.
Jake’s Farmers Market Restaurant at the corner of Broad Street and Illinois Avenue grew, literally, from the Family Farmers Market operated by three generations of the Stocum family on West Pennsylvania Avenue from 1995 to 2005.
The market there featured outdoor tables. The Stocums cooked and served classic Southern meals featuring fresh produce. Their new project — bustling, pristine and indoors — threw a switch for longtime customers wanting a lunch of meat, two sides and cornbread for less than a sandwich costs elsewhere.
“The place on Pennsylvania Avenue was good when you had to sit out in the cold, so we figured it’d be even better inside,” says Ken Barnes, lunching with his mates from Fowler Electric.
And although Barnes’ co-worker David Wicker knows that other places headline locally grown vegetables, “They’re just not cooked like Mom did.”
At Jake’s, the “Mom” is Jacob Stocum’s grandmother, Pat Stocum. She bakes the pies from scratch, including crusts. Jake, 23, has been crowned the legal and financial owner after selling a piece of land, a graduation gift, and his tractor-trailer for start-up funds.
“We borrowed no money,” proudly states Jake, who works the grill 14 hours a day. “Every plate that goes out has my name on it. I want it right.”
Jake has been working since fourth grade, when he milked his own cows.
Jake’s dad, Ken Stocum, wholesale produce grower and entrepreneur, speaks with the tongue of a marketing maestro: “We don’t own a can opener. You won’t see any commercial food supply trucks in our parking lot. We bought these tables and chairs at auction. Our grill cost $400; a new one costs $6,000.”
In fact, Ken says with dubious pride, “Everything in this business came from somebody who didn’t make it.”
According to the National Restaurant Association, even before the current recession, 75 percent of new restaurants failed within the first year because of undercapitalization.
Jake’s sister Sarah, a hairdresser, works the evening shift. His girlfriend Erin Roberts manages the front, and a 9-year-old nephew occasionally washes dishes.
Family? You bet.
But the bee buzzing loudest in Ken Stocum’s bonnet is the locavore concept: Build meals around locally grown meat and produce. This ancient market-garden practice is enjoying a renaissance that began more than a decade ago in higher-end restaurants and has trickled down to diner-type establishments.
The Stocums serve free-range poultry and look forward to locally raised beef — “so you’ll know what they’re fed,” Ken says. Bratwurst from John Council in Shannon sold out in a few hours.
“North Carolina has a long tradition of sales from farmers directly to restaurants,” says Jim Knight, media director of marketing for the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture’s Consumer Division. “High end restaurants can afford to react seasonally whereas in a diner you expect to find (the same items) year-round.”
Not at Jake’s, where a new menu is printed daily according to availability. As for moderate pricing, Ken believes, “You can shear a sheep 100 times but you can’t skin him but once.”
Jake’s opened quietly on Oct. 25. Word spread like soft butter on hot corn. By noon, parking spaces are scarce at the former Old Timers/H&R Block location. A beer and wine license is pending, but the Stocums opted to open without it.
“We wanted to be known as a restaurant, not a bar,” Ken says.
A family restaurant. Tables are pushed together to accommodate several generations, especially on Sunday. Present a church bulletin and receive 10 percent off an old-fashioned farm-style dinner.
Black-eyed peas, squash casserole and fried pickles, anyone?
Just one word is needed to describe what has happened at Broad and Illinois. It starts with an S:
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org
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