Hungry for some southern cuisine? The new casual southern restaurant Southern on Main has opened up at 102 E. Main St. in downtown Elkin at the location of the former 21 on Main. Owned by Marla Stern and Gary Eggers, the restaurant focuses on bringing southern cuisine to downtown Elkin while providing a nice casual yet rustic atmosphere for guests.
Stern has owned restaurants before as she was the owner of the Mason Jar Cafe in Newland. When her daughter, Jessica Grogan, graduated high school, she wasn’t ready to leave home yet. Stern told her that she would put the restaurant for sale and move with her to Charlotte, where her other two daughters lived, and they would go back to school together. When her daughter had one semester left, she decided she was ready to be on her own. Stern started looking for restaurants and found the property for the former 21 on Main on Craigslist.
“It’s a beautiful building,” said Stern. “It’s got a lot of charm and history, plus I love the town. When we came looking, we went around talking to people and everyone’s just so friendly. I love the small-town atmosphere. It’s a lot different from Charlotte and much more of what I grew up with, what I’m use to, and what I love. The location is great. Jeff and Erica Gibbs own the location so I lease it from them, and it was nice because there was a lot of equipment stuff already here so it was a bit easier starting up. Even then, we’ve done a lot of reorganizing and rearranging since then. We started leasing back at the beginning of June.”
Stern and Eggers work as a team to keep the restaurant afloat. Eggers works the front of the house tending to the needs of the guests while Stern cooks in the back.
“My ex-husband, Eggers, who I’m dating now, he wanted to open up a restaurant and he was a trucker on the road, so he agreed to stop his job and attempt the restaurant business,” said Stern. “All my children have helped out to put everything together, including helping with the decor. There were a lot of struggles here and there. It’s not an easy business, but it’s come together nicely and we’ve been well received. We can’t complain.”
“We’ve only had a couple of days where it’s kind of slow, but that’s to be expected in the restaurant business,” said waitress Nickayla Norman.
Southern on Main focuses on a southern menu with fried chicken, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, steaks, trout, and catfish, just to name a few of their items. The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner with different fares and menus and guests also can order to go. A full bar also is found near the back of the restaurant.
“It’s a southern restaurant so we wanted to stick with that,” said Stern. “I paint, so most of the paintings in here are mine, and my daughter was the one who came up with the stuff to put up and decorated it. She works in Charlotte and has helped a lot with my computer systems here.
“We’re aiming for an experience that’s not too casual but not too fine dining,” said Stern. “Anybody can enjoy it. It can still be a date night place. I don’t think we have enough of those here in Elkin. We get a lot of variety which is good, but I was trying to fit a niche that wasn’t being covered as much in town.”
Business has been going well, according to Stern. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Stern also plans on opening for Sunday brunch in a couple of months once she gets things better organized and set up.
There have been a few challenges along the way for Stern and Eggers opening up the restaurant.
“Anytime you come to open a business or restaurant you have to meet certain health codes and requirements,” said Stern. “We’ve had to deal with changing a few things to get up to code. We also had a lot of equipment that didn’t want to cooperate so we’ve had to replace equipment and rearrange a few things. Then the second day we were open we had the microburst storm come through.”
Stern has plans for the future but right now is focused on taking things one step at a time.
“I have a lot of hopes for the future but right now I’m just focusing on getting the kitchen set up properly, getting the upstairs open, getting the food out on time, perfecting the recipes, and then we’ll see where we go from there,” said Stern. “We are looking into expanding upstairs in the coming months. We put some overflow up there for the busier days, but we’re going to open the upstairs wine bar in a few weeks overlooking the streets. Apparently, a lot of people loved it back in the day.”
Norman was an employee of 21 on Main before it closed down.
“It’s kind of neat to see the transition from 21 on Main to here,” said Norman. “Both restaurants were equally neat. Each one has their own personal charm. This one has a more country and downtown feel now. Before, this whole area down here was a market so it was the market place downstairs, then food service upstairs. Working here has been great so far. They really try to make you feel like family once you join the team here.”
For Stern and Eggers, it’s the feeling of being part of the Elkin community that they have enjoyed the most at Southern on Main.
“I love to cook and I love to meet the residents and the people who are really happy with my cooking,” said Stern. “It’s just nice to be part of a community and be active. It’s just a wonderful thing.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.