So here we were, in Tarboro trying to create a restaurant in a town with a population of no more than 11,000. Unemployment was the highest for any county in the state, and we were getting ready to start a venture we ourselves didn’t even believe would work.
At this time, we only served breakfast and lunch. We used a real register at the counter and all of the cooking was done on panini presses in the main dining room where the bar is now. We didn’t have a Point of Sale so when someone ordered a sandwich, we hand wrote the ticket and handed it to either Frances or Stephen. At this time, we also didn’t have table numbers to identify the food tickets. This was largely in part because between Frances and myself, we knew every customer’s first name so we just wrote Shari or Tiffany or Rusty on the ticket and we would know exactly where to take the plate. On the odd chance we didn’t know someone’s name, we would label the ticket “Lady in the Red Shirt” or “Man in Mudcats Hat.” To this day, I always wonder what people would have thought had they seen our descriptors.
Opening in October is always a good thing as you can get ready for the holidays to reap the benefits of parties and people shopping downtown. We spent everyday in the restaurant including Saturdays and Sundays when the dining room was closed. At that time, we would come in to lay tiles behind the bar or to assist with renovations in the kitchen.
Looking back on it, the days seem very far away, and while ten years is in fact a long time, it isn’t forever ago, and it makes me feel old to try to think of what I cannot remember.
One event I do recall with great clarity is when the wrestling coach at Tarboro High School brought in a young kid he was coaching. The gentleman asked for me and said he was bringing this teenager to wash dishes at the restaurant upon the recommendation of Dr. Richards who was the other investor of On the Square along with my dad. The boy was an attractive young man with big eyes and a solemn smile. He barely spoke as I took him into the kitchen to meet Stephen. The child was the ripe age of fifteen.
Our first employee, and to this day along with Frances, our longest.
There aren’t many people who impress me to the point I speak of them all of the time, but Xavyer Burroughs captured my heart and my soul when he came into our restaurant that day.
He started washing dishes at first, but because he was such a sharp kid, he moved up to preparing fruit and cheese on the cold side and eventually cooking on the grill. The kitchen wasn’t necessarily his favorite place to be so I convinced him to come to the other side (front of the house, that is) and start running food. As you can imagine, he was wonderful at it, and from there, he moved up to server. And then, of course, as most of you already know, three weeks ago he passed the Certified Sommelier Exam in Washington D.C., making him On the Square’s official sommelier.
Ten years ago, I remember Xavyer’s mother sleeping in the car outside the restaurant as she waited for him to finish work. I also remember her bringing in her other three children to eat dinner while Xavyer worked in the kitchen.
While I do not know his mother well, I aspire to be the mother she has been to her four children: supportive yet firm, holding fast to integrity and hard work.
Three of her four children have worked with us at On the Square, and now almost 10 years later, two of them still do.
But they not only work with us, they are a huge part of our operation.
Anthony Burroughs is Stephen’s right hand man, his sous chef, his friend and his second son. Anthony knows what Stephen is thinking before he thinks it, and he continues to smile at me in the kitchen, even when I am yelling at him to make the food come out of the kitchen faster.
Both he and Xavyer have come to our home when we had cookouts for our childrens’ classes and they have both babysat for our kids on many occasions. Anthony is a regular fixture in our family camping trips.
When I think about what has happened in the past 10 years, I cannot help but think about the Burroughs family and all they have done to help On the Square become what it is today.
With complete disregard for conventional business wisdom, the relationships we have forged have lead us down a path where for better or for worse, Stephen and I have treated our restaurant like it was our family
So looking back on what has transpired in 10 years, I think the day Xavyer walked into our dining room with his wrestling coach was a monumental occasion. It started the ball rolling on young people coming in our lives and playing a big part in helping our restaurant grow.
Xavyer was the first, but fortunately for us, young people are continually coming to work here to give of their time and talents and be a very vital part of making us better people and a better restaurant.