Despite being denied a grant application at last week’s City Council meeting, Rusty Jackson said it is simply a matter “of when, not if” a bakery, cafe and full-service restaurant opens downtown at the corner of Wall and Main streets, and she said she is still excited about the prospect.
Jackson said she still wants to work closely with the city of Clinton toward not only realizing her dream, but also opening a venture she insists will work to benefit the city and the downtown. The City Council denied serving as the pass-through for Wall Street and Main Inc.’s Building Restoration and Reuse Grant application for building improvements.
Jackson, the manager, and property owner Vince Burgess previously approached the city about applying for a N.C. Rural Economic Development Center grant application for their venture at 101 Wall St, with $152,000 being dependent on 20 full-time jobs being created at the location.
While 20 jobs was said to be ambitious, Jackson said having a central kitchen to serve all three entities would be well stocked with employees. An eight-hour shift would be easily worked with the business going from morning into the night.
“It’s 12,000 square feet with three businesses and one central kitchen,” said Jackson. “I will probably stagger the openings for each so all the employees will know what they’re doing.”
The building has come a long way with close to half a mile of steel I-beams placed throughout the three floors, as well as overhauled duct work and walls stripped down to brick and insulated windows put in. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements have also seen nearly 1,500 feet of fire escapes and wheelchair access installed. The interior and exterior facade were designed by Jackson herself.
When she arrived at the Clinton location, among her first concerns were the outside utilities, and whether they could handle the needs of the business. Those are being repaired and rehabilitated by the city, something that will help the business and is crucial to its opening, she said.
“Seven months ago, I had to stop construction,” said Jackson. “Not being open is why I needed to apply for the grant. I can’t go any further until I know where the utilities are on the outside. My timeline is three months once I have those utilities. To me, three months is even longer than I need. I didn’t want to run plumbing and electrical until I knew where the panels would go and where utilities would come into the building.”
In June, the Council awarded a bid to Jymco Development Inc. of Smithfield for the replacement and repair of the water and sewer lines in the alley behind the Wall Street and Main Inc. bakery business, stretching along the Wall Street from Main Street to Sycamore Street.
Public works director Jeff Vreugdenhil noted the poor condition of the system and said repair of the lines was “very needed” for surrounding properties. He stated that there will be all new water service, as well as additional lighting. He said at the beginning of June that it would take a minimum of 90 days to complete the $160,000 project.
Jackson said she believed the whole point of revitalizing downtown and improving utilities was to attract and keep good businesses in the heart of Clinton, and she is happy for the assistance. “The service there wasn’t big enough for the whole block and me,” said Jackson.
Installing those panels are in no way an inexpensive venture, and Jackson said she did not want to have to do it twice.
Jackson said she is not overly discouraged by the denied grant application, but knows that it is not in her nature to wait around for something when she can pursue it.
“I’m just as excited to have my business downtown, I’m just an incredibly inpatient person,” Jackson said. “It’s always been a matter of not if, but when. I can’t wait to open up. It’s difficult at home, really difficult. I get a lot more calls than I can handle.”
Her Salemburg residence is where Jackson has been baking since closing down her Roseboro location to focus her efforts on the move to Clinton. It is not out of the ordinary for Jackson to have to turn down 10 orders a week, just because she doesn’t have the room, the help or the time to fill them and does not want to give anything but her best effort.
Jackson started as a chef, owning three restaurants over the years and working in Las Vegas, Colorado and Arizona. She has also been an executive chef at resorts and other restaurants. Despite her resume, Jackson said she could not even get a job cooking at the jail, and she knows many other qualified people struggle to find work.
She said while she could have kept the business going in Roseboro or set up a smaller shop in Salemburg, she was encouraged by people with the city, along with others, to come to Clinton — and jumped at the chance. Knowing how tough the job market is, Jackson said she wanted to be able to offer jobs.
“It was important to me to do that,” Jackson said. “I can open a small bakery, have two people work with me and make the same amount of money. The whole point is the jobs. It actually is my bottom line. I did really well in Roseboro and I developed clientele there with no real advertising.”
Council members praised Jackson for her talents and her endeavor to bring a quality business downtown, but raised concerns with city time that would have to be involved as a stipulation of the Building Reuse grant. The grant, if approved, would have had to be funneled through the city of Clinton and to the applicants with the stipulation that the 20 jobs be maintained for six months. Jackson shared her confidence that those jobs could be created, and still stands by that.
There will be plenty of traffic, and plenty of business to be had.
“There’s a lot of people in the morning with the courthouse traffic, and there’s a lot of people when they break for lunch,” she said. “With the designer cakes, it is also a destination, so it kind of markets the restaurant.”
Along with having a central kitchen to serve the bakery, cafe and restaurant, each entity will also feed off one another, with bakery delicacies offered as desserts at the cafe and restaurant. Jackson said she also has a couple wholesale accounts for bread cooked at the bakery to be purchased from other restaurants.
Even with some obstacles and delays, Jackson said she is optimistic about opening downtown, sooner rather than later.
“I’m still going to open,” she said emphatically. “It’s only a matter of when, and hopefully that will be soon.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.