Full Moon rising
Julie Zoller is not one to sit still. Usually up by 4:30, she is at the Lenoir Golf Club cranking up the ovens and starting the coffee by 6:30 a.m.
By 2:30 in the afternoon, she is at her other enterprise, Southern Comforts Catering and Event Planning.
But the Full Moon Cafe and Grille, a joint venture with business partner Bert Douglas, is her latest pet project. Open since Jan. 8 for a Caldwell Rotary function, the restaurant is rapidly gaining popularity.
“It’s a wonderful restaurant, said Lenoir Mayor and frequent patron Joe Gibbons. “Having her (Julie Zoller) here is a plus for Caldwell County.”
Zoller sold her furniture company, Skill Craft Enterprises, in 2001 when the industry began to tank. She ventured into advertising, working for E.B. Wall and Associates. Three years ago, she and Douglas got together and talked about starting a catering businesses.
“We were between jobs,” Zoller said. “We decided we both love to cook and entertain.”
Out of their idea, Southern Comforts was born, catering to those with little free time to cook and who are on the go. The company thrived.
“We’ve been tickled to death,” she said. “The community support has been overwhelming.”
When the dining room and kitchen above Lenoir Golf Club became available Zoller and Douglas, a former showroom designer, jumped. They were handed the keys on Dec. 31, and began renovations the very next day. A floor manager, Brian Johnson, was hired. Johnson brings years of experience in full-service dining, having worked in restaurants from Gulf Shores, Ala. to Orlanda, Fl. . Ron Watts has been a chef for nearly 40 years, cutting his culinary chops in California in the early seventies after graduating from culinary school. Watts helped out with big events for Southern Comforts, but now has his own kitchen.
The breakfast menu includes Southern favorites, such as liver mush, scratch-made biscuits, hash browns, omelets and grits and gravy. Lunch consists of daily blue plate specials, including pinto beans, cabbage, sliced turkey breast, hamburger steak and fresh vegetables. Winter hours are 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, will will offer dinner socials on occasion. A Super Bowl party also is in the works.
For Pam and Greg Pilkenton, Full Moon offers a nice diversion before heading out for their morning chores. Mayor Gibbons and his wife are part of the group.
“We’ve been here every morning since she’s been open,” Pam said. The food is excellent. My favorite is the bacon and egg sandwich, and I like the chicken quasadilla.”
Seating is for 45, with 75 at full capacity. Two outdoor decks provide additional dining opportunities.
For the restless Zoller, juggling two successful businesses is no problem. She always has a smile for her staff and customers.
“It’s nice to do something you enjoy and love,” she said. “It’s very long hours and hard work, but business has been great.”
“Julie’s a great person to work for,” Johnson said. “We try to provide a nice atmosphere and great food. It’s a great business.”