In just a year and a half, Corey and Phallin Scott won a slew of fans with their On Thyme Catering and food truck businesses. Now they are ready for their next venture -– a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“I like to do things in stages,” said Corey Scott. “I could have opened a restaurant initially, but I did the food truck first and now I’m taking the next step.”
The Scotts began their foray into the restaurant business by working for others: Phallin Scott was a cook for Eddie Romanelli’s Restaurant in Leland, and Corey Scott worked for New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s cafeteria.
When the two decided to go out on their own, they learned about the downside of business ownership the hard way. Soon after their first catering event in December 2019, COVID restrictions put a hold on corporate and private gatherings.
Undeterred, the Scotts focused on their food truck business. They parked their food truck in area neighborhoods as well as at large businesses such as Sam’s Club; and like many other food trucks during COVID, they thrived. The Scotts have a following that is spread throughout Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.
It was that success that impelled the Scotts to open their own restaurant.
“Now I’m serving a different crowd,” said Corey Scott. “So many people came up to me and said they were missing the food truck. I was thinking, ‘How can I help, so everyone can eat from us?’ The answer was a brick-and-mortar restaurant.”
Opening a restaurant during the pandemic may seem risky, but a recent study from the National Restaurant Association shows pent-up demand for eating out is strong. Nearly 85% of adults want to eat out more often, an increase of 45% since January, according to the survey. Furthermore, six in 10 adults ordered takeout or delivery the week of the survey, and 52% said they would like to do so more frequently.
While opening a restaurant at this time is a good business opportunity for the Scotts, it also fulfills a number of their goals. The couple can expand their equipment and offer customers a larger variety of high-quality dishes as well as grow their clientele, according to Corey Scott.
“I want people who come to Wilmington to say, ‘I’ve got to hit this spot,’” he said.
Although the Scotts found two sites they felt would work for their restaurant, there was really no debate about the choice. The Scotts bought the property on which Booty’s Soul Food was situated at 918 Castle St., as well as its surrounding lots.
“We chose the site because of the history of Booty’s,” said Corey Scott. “We grew up on the south side of Wilmington. We knew someone else would tear it down, and we wanted to keep history alive.”
The Scotts’ On Thyme Restaurant will be an intimate, casual place where people can get many of their favorites from the food truck such as Cajun shrimp po’boys, chicken wings with a variety of sauces, seafood dishes, pastas and burgers. Folks who crave the taste of Booty’s fried chicken will still be able to indulge, as Corey Scott uses the same seasoning for his chicken as the former owner – an unexpected coincidence the Scotts discovered when they did a walk-through of the property.
The new restaurant, however, will also feature new specials.
“I hear people talking on Facebook, saying they want something different to eat tonight,” said Corey Scott. “We’re going to have that ‘something different’ to eat.”
Don’t ask him to get more specific than that on new dishes he’ll be serving. Corey Scott said ideas for new dishes often pop up the week before he puts them on the menu.
While the couple hasn’t completed their plans for the side lots, they do aim to put a deck on one of them for outdoor seating. They also want to use the additional space for community activities. Early thoughts include events such as food truck rodeos; hosting celebrations for holidays such as Juneteenth, the N.C. Azalea Festival and the Fourth of July; and bringing in bands, DJs, vendors and inflatables for the kids for informal community gatherings.
“I believe in giving back,” said Corey Scott. “I’m very big on that. This will be more than just a restaurant.”
In fact, neighborhood development is a driving force for Corey Scott. As a son of Wilmington’s south side, he is committed to seeing area neighborhoods grow and for there to be opportunities for the people living in them.
“It’s a matter of people putting aside their differences and coming together to get the job done,” he said.
Corey Scott sees the growth of Castle Street and the surrounding areas as a move in the right direction.
He stressed that for minority-owned businesses to survive, however, they need to do the hard work of networking and to have the support of other businesses. He credits mentors from Live Oak Bank; New Hanover Regional Medical Center; and restaurant owner Keith Rhodes with helping him succeed.
“If we [minorities] don’t have a lot of people willing to get out and teach others the business of succeeding in business, we won’t get far. We need more businesses helping other businesses,” he said.
Corey Scott hopes that his own success as a business owner will inspire other minorities to build their own businesses.
“I come from the rougher side of Wilmington,” he said. “When I succeed, it shows others that anybody can get anything done if they put their mind to it and work hard.”