Ahoskie’s Most Wanted List

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

Perhaps the headline of this column may provoke thoughts of mug shots and accompanying information about individuals sought by local law enforcement for crimes they have committed.

However, the headline serves a totally different purpose.

While I prefer not to be accused by the owners of Ahoskie’s existing base of great places to eat, what the town is missing is a nice family style restaurant that features “butcher shop” quality steaks on the menu. I don’t think we have a restaurant currently operating here that serves a fine steak.

Back in the day we did have a Golden Corral steak house (the site of the current Lu’s Buffet). However, that particular restaurant chain shifted its focus decades ago to more of buffet-style offerings and the Ahoskie location was in a smaller building that was land-locked…meaning there was no room to tear it down and build a larger restaurant.

I miss the Golden Corral. The food was above average and reasonably priced.

It totally baffles me that a town the size of Ahoskie currently has no establishment like this. I would think a nice nighttime restaurant would be overrun with business and would have folks waiting in line to be seated.

It certainly would make our town more appealing to visitors, business travelers, vacationers, and just about all of our citizens.

And with the Ahoskie Creek Park’s renovated baseball/softball diamonds, the town is witnessing an uptick in youth and adult tournaments being held there during the spring, summer, and fall months. Case in point was the Ahoskie Creek Park hosting the 2023 Tar Heel League’s District Softball Tournament in July. There were families coming in with their young players from all over northeastern North Carolina. I overheard time and time again, while I was the covering the event for the newspaper, from those visitors who were asking tournament officials if there was a nice family restaurant in town.

Meanwhile, just think of the couples and families that are now driving to Roanoke Rapids, Greenville, Norfolk, Suffolk and Murfreesboro just to dine out. With the exception of dining locally in Murfreesboro, think about all our tax revenue that’s being spent in other cities, even those out of state. Those municipalities are lining their pockets with our money instead of us having the opportunity to keep that cash here at home.

For the life of me I can’t understand why an investor, business person, or entrepreneur would not be chomping at the bit to open up a steak/seafood restaurant here. There is little competition for that type of menu, and there is a great desire among the local population for a good steak house.

True, we do not have a large customer base if you only count the number of folks living in Ahoskie, but what we do have is a large area of population that would drive here should we land a nice nighttime restaurant. I must hear a dozen times a week from citizens of all walks of life how much they would enjoy a nice steakhouse.

Please don’t accuse me of overlooking the “sit down” restaurants currently serving up great food here in Ahoskie….Pizza Inn, Golden Skillet, Little Panda, Mug Shotz, KFC, Los Amigos, Abrams, Otto’s, Vito’s, Lu’s Buffet, Pizza Hut, Highway 55, and The Tablespoon. I’ve tried them all and like their offerings – as well as McDonalds, Burger King, Hardees, and Bojangles – but none of them serve a cooked-to-order steak along with a loaded baked potato.

Rural markets such as ours have a great challenge recruiting chain style restaurants, especially in this current economy. We don’t have oceans or mountains, so we are going to have to work a bit harder to attract these types of restaurants.

We must sell the Roanoke-Chowan area first and Ahoskie second. It is important to know who we are and how best to market our assets in this specialized environment. We must be able to demonstrate to prospective clients what’s in it for them.

When we are out in our community, especially when we visit other communities, it’s awful easy to say things like…Oh well, Ahoskie is just too small for anything nice or Ahoskie will never grow; even worse, Ahoskie can’t support a nice restaurant.

We all need to develop an “Elevator Speech” about Ahoskie and the R-C area, which with practice should take less than 60 seconds. Instead of being negative, bring out the great we have.

One of things I think would be impressive is using the population of not only of Ahoskie and Hertford County, but entire the Roanoke-Chowan area.

The population of all four counties that make up the Roanoke-Chowan area is around 68,000. That’s enough people that would get the attention of any restaurant or retailer. Most chain style restaurant or retailer would market themselves to the entire area anyway.

A couple of other positives were can boast about ourselves to a prospective restaurant owner or retail outlet is our rich history that dates back to the 1600s. There’s Hope Plantation, and Historic Murfreesboro. We’re home to many scenic waterways.

Ahoskie, in addition to its ball fields, features an awesome amphitheater that can play host to most any type of events.

And the ace up our sleeve is Chowan University. Think not only of the students and staff there, but the visitors that come and go from that beautiful campus….especially athletic teams coming in to play the Hawks.

And the town of Murfreesboro is home to some great restaurants as well…John’s Seafood, Napolis, Tavern 125, Latin Soul, El Ranchero, Kurbside Bar & Grill, and China Garden.

We have a great opportunity in Ahoskie for someone. I hope someone steps up to the plate and takes advantage of a golden opportunity to open a family style steakhouse.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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