Travis Croxton grew up around oysters. About a decade ago, Croxton and his cousin, Ryan, teamed up to revive their family’s century-old harvesting business in Virginia. That eventually led to Croxton opening restaurants along the East Coast under his Rappahannock Oyster Co. umbrella.
Now he’s investing in Charlotte.
Croxton, 39, will open North Carolina’s first RockSalt restaurant early next year at the site of the former Park Road Quick Cleaners in the back lot of the Park Road Shopping Center.
Although Croxton doesn’t plan on moving to Charlotte from his home outside of Richmond, Va., he says he’ll visit often.
“I love the city and my sister lives there,” he said. “I feel like what we do will be a good mix.”
He chose the current site, he said, because of its close proximity to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway as well as its being in the well-established shopping center.
The 2,100-square-foot upfit involves extensive renovation. Croxton hired Boyer Commercial Construction Co. as the contractor for the project. They began work last month and are currently finishing the interior and exterior demolition. The building will be renovated with standard restaurant infrastructure, including a brand new kitchen and indoor seating area, as well as plumbing, mechanical and electrical upgrades.
The new 150-seat space, when completed, will feature a large raw bar with oysters sourced directly from Croxton’s farms on the Chesapeake. In addition, there will be an indoor wood-fired grill for cooking seafood, meat and poultry supplied by small farmers close to Charlotte.
“We’re going to support all the local farmers that we can,” said Croxton, who was recognized in 2013 by Zagat as one of the 24 restaurant-world power players around the United States.
An indoor bar will showcase local beers, craft cocktails and wines. The redesign includes adding a large, partially covered outdoor dining area overlooking the greenway. Guests can opt to eat in front of the raw bar, on the outdoor patio or in traditional indoor seating overlooking an open kitchen. Croxton has just hired a chef, Jay Pierce of Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro and Cary. He plans on hiring some 30 employees, including wait staff, bartenders, managers and prep- and line-cooks.
The restaurant’s theme will be “modern, and not overly nautical, casual yet refined,” Croxton said. Décor will include custom-made tables and chairs and a concrete floor.
“Anyone can go there for an anniversary dinner or for just a casual get-together with friends,” he said. The menu features “seafood-centric” American cuisine including steamed clams and shrimp, baked oysters, and fish from the Carolinas and Virginia.
Croxton is spending more than $580,000 on the project. A recent infusion from Maryland-based Wellrock Capital Investments is funding the local restaurant, as well as three additional “farm-to-table” RockSalts. One will be in Asheville and the other two will be in Charlottesville and Fairfax, Va.
“We are psyched to support Travis in this amazing project,” said Dennis Hoffman, co-founder and managing director at Wellrock, in a statement. “RockSalt brings together the best of his expertise as a farmer, restaurateur and entrepreneur.”
The addition of RockSalt is just one recent change to the Park Road Shopping Center. Its owner, Edens, has made several improvements to the site, which opened in 1956. They include improved traffic circulation, landscaping and sidewalks. The Columbia, S.C.-based company has also painted the center’s shop fronts white. New tenants include Mexican restaurant Cantina 1511, which moved from its previous Dilworth address, and Onward Reserve, a menswear store .
Project description: Renovation of a former dry cleaner into a restaurant
Address: 512 Brandywine Road
Contractor: Boyer Commercial Construction Co.
Space: 2,100 square feet
Cost: Permit pulled for $582,286
Construction started: September
Construction completed: Early 2015