While Deli Works may be in a challenging location, it proves that great food and hard work are the basis for restaurant success.
When Josh and Sara Parrish were looking to open a restaurant in 2019, they found a gem in an unusual location: a former nursing home that had been converted to retail and office space. Since then, Deli Works has found success serving breakfast and lunch to hungry Topsail-area residents.
“We knew the area had a lot of potential for growth, but it was not established yet,” says Josh, 37, who has been working in restaurants since he was 13. He has, among other things, been a general manager at Ruby Tuesday and Texas Roadhouse restaurants in Wilmington and Jacksonville. He notes that the new housing developments and business growth in the Topsail area helped attract them here when starting their restaurant.
Deli Works is in Holly Ridge, across the road from the town’s community center and near the municipal building. The repurposed, one-story, red-brick building is also home to 10 other businesses, including a company that makes gift baskets, a marriage and family therapist and a storm restoration company.
The 1,200-square-foot kitchen and dining area of the former Holly Ridge Assisted Living came equipped with a refrigerator, stove, prep table and more than $80,000 in kitchen equipment, so the couple was able to start the restaurant with no loans and no investors. An outdoor patio is available.
“It’s the food quality that keeps people coming back,” Josh says. “They may not expect much because of the location, but they are pleasantly surprised.”
Josh oversees a hard-working, reliable staff of four and keeps his eye on all food going out of the kitchen. Almost all items, including soups, dressings, and bread, are made in house. The menu offers hot and cold sandwiches, paninis and breakfast platters. Vegetable sandwiches, salads and other health-conscious choices are available, too, thanks to Sara, who is a dietitian with New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
Even with the pandemic crisis, Josh says business is growing. “We’re growing slowly, but we’re growing,” he says. He estimates that 95 percent of his business comes from locals who live within 2 miles of the restaurant. Because of this base, Deli Works is not dependent on the summer season beach traffic.
The former nursing home building has its challenges. It has no visibility from heavily traveled Highway 17 and had no outside signage when they opened. Since then they’ve added signage and use social media as much as possible. With 1,500 followers on Facebook, Josh notes, “We get so many people in here who saw our food online.”
The restaurant is open 6 am to 3 pm Monday through Saturday. It is closed Sunday. Those hours require Josh, who lives in Porters Neck, to arrive by 5 am and work at least until 5:30 pm. The schedule allows the father of 1-year-old Dax and 4-year-old Eva to spend time with his children each night and Sundays, something that is precious to him. “I’d close before I had to work Sundays. Sunday is family time,” he says.
As for the future, Josh is planning to launch a food trailer. Using Deli Works as a base, he plans to serve food at local bars, festivals and other events.
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325 Sound Road, Holly Ridge
Photography by Shay Perna