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The Fore family knew it was risky to open a restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic, when closures and restrictions forced many businesses to close their doors for good.
But Stephen Fore and his cousin, Zach, and their uncle, Kenny, found a restaurant space in downtown Laurinburg that was small enough to keep overhead costs low. They believed they could “keep the lights on” by serving 70 to 100 takeout orders each working day to church groups and people who work in the hospital and courthouse.
“And that’s exactly what we did,” Stephen Fore said.
The family-run restaurant Fore, which opened last December, is part of an entrepreneurial boom in North Carolina. About 129,000 new businesses have been started in the state so far this year, and more than 185,000 are expected by the end of the year, according to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office, Elaine Marshall.
The big increase began in 2020, when the state saw 127,000 new businesses – a 27% increase from the year before, Marshall’s office said.
The county of Scotland, home to Laurinburg, saw a 211% increase in new business filings between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, compared to the previous 12-month period. It is the highest jump among the state’s 100 counties, according to the secretary of state.
Chris English, executive director of the Scottish County Chamber of Commerce, points to the county’s location to explain the flood of new businesses. Located along US 74, the area is midway between Charlotte and Wilmington.
“We get a lot of traffic from the Greensboro / Triad area,” English said. “And Scotland County is probably the last easy place to get on and off Highway 74 before you get to the beach.”
Kenny Fore attributes part of the success of Fore Family Restaurant to through traffic. But he does not neglect the patronage of the residents of the County of Scotland.
“I love my hometown,” he says. “The community really supported us. We receive a lot of locals who come regularly. “
Family of entrepreneurs
The family-run restaurant Fore was one of 123 new businesses to open in the county of Scotland in 2020, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office. As of September 20, the county had gained 161 new businesses so far in 2021.
The members of the Fore family are no strangers to entrepreneurship.
Kenny Fore’s mother, Keiko Fore, was a WWII bombing survivor of Hiroshima in Japan and later became a well-known seamstress in the county of Scotland.
“She made her mark in this county with her kindness and community service,” said Kenny Fore. “I think she made the wedding dress of everyone who has ever gotten married in the county of Scotland.”
Stephen Fore has been self-employed for over 10 years and has been in the restaurant business since he was 13 when he started cooking at a seafood restaurant. He owned the What’s Fore Lunch food truck, offering fresh breads and deli meats, but shut down the business during the pandemic.
He and his wife own the Fore All Occasions restaurant service, and Stephen Fore also recently acquired the Lighthouse, a three-story lodge with a restaurant and bar at Little River Golf and Resort in Moore County.
Kenny Fore has owned the food truck Krazy Kuzzins’s Concessions for two years, serving hot dogs and snacks. He had dreamed of owning a business in downtown Laurinburg, and the pandemic – which slowed down his food truck business – turned out to be the right time.
The increase in new businesses in the County of Scotland and across the state coincides with the pandemic, which has led to high unemployment rates and a lot of uncertainty.
But the secretary of state’s office said most of the new businesses that responded to a survey said they “started their business in search of new opportunities, not as a result of losing money. use”.
Entrepreneurship could attract more people to Southeastern North Carolina, which has seen drastic population declines over the past decade, said Todd Brantley, vice president of North Carolina last month. NC Rural Center Public Affairs at the Border Belt Independent.
“Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention,” he said. “So maybe there are people out there trying to figure out how to do something on their own in light of this pandemic and the economic downturn. “
Kenny and Stephen Fore shared ideas on their business plan, and within a week they found a downtown location that was almost a turnkey operation for a new restaurant. They were convinced that the name Fore, so important in the region, would attract business.
“[My mother’s] the name was already there, and we relied on a lot of that to get people, once they saw the last name, to come and try us, ”Kenny Fore said. “I receive three or four people a week who come to tell me a story about my mother.”
Survive and thrive
With no staff to serve customers initially, Fore opened its doors to take out only, but allowed customers to sit in the dining room with their take out boxes.
“We really felt like the take out would be a hit because people were tired of having to stay home and eat, not being able to get to restaurants,” said Kenny Fore.
Now open for dinner, the intimate restaurant can seat around 30 customers. With low Edison bulbs, exposed brick interior, and dark wood chairs, the restaurant offers a quaint bistro feel unique to the area.
“When you walk the streets of Laurinburg, you just don’t expect this,” Stephen Fore said. “It’s a great feeling and atmosphere.”
Walking through the restaurant door in front of the window, patrons are immediately greeted by the scent of hand-baked cheeseburgers and barbecue pulled with a sauce made from eastern North Carolina vinegar.
The classic American menu changes every six to eight months, with up to 14 courses and daily specials.
“The menu was built to survive the COVID times, where we don’t have this big menu that we have to facilitate,” Stephen Fore said.
He knows that many businesses have not been as successful.
“I’ve spoken to so many people who own so many amazing businesses that haven’t been able to succeed during this time, and it breaks my heart for them,” he said. “And to be honest, someone must have lost their dream because that’s how the Fore family’s dream came true, because there was a restaurant there before us.”
For the Fores, the risks were worth taking.
“People have told us we are absolutely crazy to have opened a restaurant in the midst of COVID,” Kenny Fore said. “Now we are overflowing. “