Eateries go indie
Sometimes the best way to preserve and promote individuality is to form a group.
This was the impulse for the creation of a new association intended to celebrate unique local restaurants.
The newly formed organization called Boone Independent Restaurants was created by the owners of two well-known local establishments, Casa Rustica and Pepper’s, which have existed in the High Country for decades.
Rick Pedroni and John Pepper, the respective owners of those restaurants, recognized a need for unity in the local food service community.
Pedroni acknowledges that there has long been a group of civic-minded restaurants in the area, but that he and Pepper “wanted to make it more of a community thing.”
The community Pedroni refers to covers the larger High Country area, despite the geographic specificity of the organization’s name. He acknowledges that a local restaurant association is not a new idea, citing Asheville’s nearby example.
“We based this off of Asheville’s,” Pedroni said. “They’ve been instrumental in helping us.”
According to the BIR’s website, the mission of the new organization is to unite local restaurants in order to “preserve the individuality of the community served by each member restaurant; improve quality, service and social responsibility … and ensure the longevity of each member restaurant.”
Pedroni is quick to point out that the BIR’s goal is cooperation, not competition, even with the many chain restaurants populating the Boone area.
Boone Independent Restaurants was created as a nonprofit in order to operate efficiently and give back to the community, but the organization also wants to support local suppliers. “BIR is working hard to bring the food that is grown in the High Country to your plate at your favorite independent restaurant,” Pedroni said.
He said that the organization wants to utilize various providers, such as “local farmers, butchers, coffee roasters and soon, brewers.”
In exchange for the fee to join BIR, member restaurants get many benefits, he said. For restaurateurs who spend a great deal of time in their own establishments, many of them get valuable news, ideas and networking opportunities through a monthly newsletter and member meetings, Pedroni said.
The organization will release a printed local dining guide in the next few months that describes member restaurants, and affiliate establishments are featured on BIR’s website and through print and electronic marketing initiatives.
The BIR will also be offering a “passport card” with more than $1,000 of discounts for member restaurants and is currently working with the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation to make member establishments more green by curbing energy usage.
“Like anything great, there’s a lot of work in the background,” Pedroni said, describing the year of hard work by many people to initiate the organization.
He named Mollie Swann, Andrew Veal and the Pepper family as being instrumental in creating the new alliance, and described how they’ve tried to pull Appalachian State University students in from the very beginning.
The attempt at unity seems to be working, even among very diverse member restaurants. “We’re pulling everybody together,” Pedroni said. “There’s a lot of support in the community. Everyone is positive about it.”
More information can be found at the Boone Independent Restaurant website, http://www.booneindependentrestaurants.org.