From Buddy’s to Boca Bay to Brasserie du Soleil, she’s been a familiar face at Wrightsville Beach area restaurants and bars for nearly two decades.
Now, Ashley Adams can be found at Banks Channel Pub & Grille, but not in her former role as bartender, as the longtime local service employee has purchased the restaurant, allowing her to put her experience and passion into owning the establishment.
“To be able to make my mark on Wrightsville Beach and have a place of my own, it’s a dream come true,” Adams said.
In a town that caters to visitors, Adams said Banks Channel has been, and will remain, the spot that many locals seek out. And while changes will come, they will happen gradually, she said.
“This will remain a place that the locals can come to,” Adams said. “Here you can live like a local and feel like a local.”
Adams, who purchased the restaurant along with her boyfriend Doug Barker, will be the face of the restaurant. located at 530 Causeway Drive. While Barker will work “the numbers,” Adams plan is to work the crowd.
“It’s important for me to be in front of people,” said Adams, who said 20 years of experience at a host of local restaurants has taught her the art of hosting and throwing parties.
Her dream of moving from behind the bar and into ownership didn’t come without sacrifice, however. Adams and Barker had saved for years for the opportunity, which presented itself when former owner Damon Scarpelli approached them in early 2017 about taking ownership of the restaurant. But negotiations were long, taking from January until Nov. 1 to reach an agreement.
“It was a lot of missed vacations but in the end, it was worth it,” Adams said.
Among her first challenges is one that every local business owner faces: surviving the off season. However, Adams said the restaurant offers several features that make it attractive to locals and offer a path to success for the restaurant.
With TVs positions around the restaurant, sports helps keep crowds coming through the door, as Adams anticipates football bowl games and playoffs, as well as the “March Madness” basketball tournament, to provide a wintertime boost.
Having two separate bars in the restaurant is another feature that Adams said could help draw in diverse crowd and emphasize the variety of options available at the restaurant. Where the front bar and game room are ideal for more rowdy activities like last month’s “Stasch Bash” for Mustaches for Kids, the dining room and sidebar offer an opportunity for more formal events.
“With our size, having two bars, we have elements that no other place around here can offer,” she said. “It’s not stuff here, but it can be upscale.”
Promotion is another element that Adams said she will focus her efforts. She’s increased the social media presence of the restaurant, including more frequent photos the popular Tuesday trivia contest and of what Adams said was the restaurant’s best kept secret – it’s weekend breakfast.
“We have the best breakfast on the Island,” she said. “Growing the breakfast crowd will be one of my biggest focuses. You have to get them early in the day.”
Adams said her experience working for some of the area’s most successful restaurant owners has given her a view of what it takes to be successful over the long term.
“It gave me a well-rounded scope of how to handle things,” she said. “I learned from the best restaurateurs in the area and saw what they did to create longevity and success.”