Entrepreneurs and Rocky Mount Go Together Like Pooh Bear and Honey, Like Travis and Kristi, Brandon and Etaf

Etaf Rum and Brandon Clarke

From the back seat of my car, a 3-1/2-year-old child reacts to a familiar place. “Grammy!!! there is Barley and Burger where Daddy and I have our date nights. They have french fries!” Spoken by a decerning french fry expert. Annaclaire has recently put together that there are four places in Rocky Mount where you can eat french fries. She will tell you: Sonic, Central Cafe, The Club, and Barley and Burger. There is a lot to love about Barley and Burger besides the menu and date night and waffle fries. It signifies something important to the community.

Located at 2921 Zebulon Road, it offers the atmosphere of a drop-in neighborhood restaurant where everyone knows your name. I can stop by on my own and feel comfortable sitting on a barstool, talking to those behind the counter.

The owners, Travis and Kristi Ellis, Brandon Clarke, and Etaf Rum are important players in Rocky Mount’s revitalization story.  Ellis and his wife, Kristi, also own the Goat Island Bottle Shop at the Rocky Mount Mills. Author, Etaf Rum and Brandon Clarke have just opened Books and Beans, the restored and repurposed Mill Canteen. Only Brandon is from Rocky Mount, but in combination, these dynamic duo couples are helping to change the face of Rocky Mount.  Young, incredibly hard-working, friendly and smart, they believe!

Interior of Barley & Burgers

Rather than parking spaces reserved with their names, or being carried around on a silver platter as they deserve, Rocky Mount investors often have one heck of a time with a system that seems deliberately intent on discouraging their efforts to repurpose a building and open a business. Unlike the people running Rocky Mount Mills, who move heaven and earth to help you with your plans, the City Council and management seem to thwart investors. Look how quickly the world out at the Mill has come together with the will, leadership, and common purpose. Yet there is a struggle for every inch we gain on Main Street. The May Gorham building was going to open as an old fashion soda shop, interior intact, but the investors grew discouraged and backed off. The Carlton House is back on the market. It always comes back to the merry band of brothers and sisters with their self-interests. I’d like to think before the rapture comes, something will change. Knocked off their donkeys on the road to Main Street, the councilmen who are paying back taxes on empty buildings with an eye to taking them over, structures they own outright, plus the inner circle of friends who get special favors, will actually do something right and save these buildings.

In my active imagination, I see Rocky Mount as a stagecoach, and the passengers, the taxpayers, being ambushed by robbers. I see a newly elected sheriff Roberson and new posse members galloping over the rise. In my fantasy, they surround the bandits who are responsible for the deliberate foot-dragging that is catamount to sabotage and lock them up. If you haven’t already, add to your list of concerns, the treatment of these investors that have serious consequences. I believe Travis and Kristi, Brandon, and Etaf, Ben Braddock, Andrew Clarke and Jesse Gerstl have Rocky Mount’s best interests at heart. Thank you! They are the future in our midst now.

Books and Beans
Adaptive Preservation


Have you checked out the new Main Street Facebook page? I hope you will like and follow.’


One thought on “Entrepreneurs and Rocky Mount Go Together Like Pooh Bear and Honey, Like Travis and Kristi, Brandon and Etaf

  1. I am saddened to hear that both the May Gorham and Carlton House will not have their rebirth as destinations in downtown Rocky Mount. I recall how exciting it was to tour both buildings, and several others, with you two years ago. The plans were good ones and the money for the projects was on the table. However, the necessary approvals and permits were languishing on the desks of those being told to delay the process.

    The facts are a few City Council members peddling lies and gossip to the voters along with a despot for the City Manager have derailed the revitalization of a city for their own financial gain.
    The repulsive part of this story is that the City Council and the management of the city have manipulated the taxpayers and voters of Rocky Mount into believing that the cities’ past and current ruin has its roots in racism.

    Racism. A powerful and often misused word. The use of race to gain or blame seems to be the soup du jour in Rocky Mount and our nation.


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