During his 12 years in the restaurant business, Hall Dozier has delivered pizzas for Domino's, managed a deli in Atlanta and waited tables from Georgia to Alabama.
Now, he's finalizing plans for his most ambitious undertaking yet: An upscale Southern restaurant in downtown Rock Hill.
Dozier hopes to open Citizen Corner by November on the first floor of the newly renovated Professional Center on Main Street. The restaurant, named for the First Citizens Bank that once occupied the space, will serve Southern-themed dishes from shrimp and grits to pork tenderloin.
Dozier, 30, who also owns Moe's Southwest at Manchester Village, hopes his concept will fill a niche in the downtown market left vacant when Tam's Tavern closed last year.
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"Rock Hill really needs somewhere nicer to go," Dozier said. "Not everyone can eat at the City Club. We're flooded with the mid-level, quick-casual niche -- all the O'Charley's and Ruby Tuesdays."
Bringing building back to life
Charlotte developer Bryan Barwick bought the five-story building from the city for $245,000 last year and finished a full-scale renovation in January.
Filling the vacancies remains a work in progress, but downtown boosters hope the arrival of a ground-floor restaurant will deliver new momentum.
Dozier also plans a bar called The Vault in the basement.
"I eat at Moe's a lot, and I know Hall just from eating there," said real estate broker Jason Tuttle, who markets the building for Barwick. "He mentioned he might be interested in starting up a new restaurant, and we just started talking. That's the way this business works."
Dozier will hold an 80 percent ownership stake but has financial backing from two silent partners, both in Rock Hill. Upfitting costs are estimated at $400,000, including furniture and kitchen equipment.
Help will come from two sources: The city's Economic Development Corp. and Barwick are each contributing $30,000.
A new neighbor for McHale's
Average tabs at lunch will run around $8, Dozier anticipates, with dinner prices between $15 and $20, not including alcohol.
At night in the downstairs bar, Dozier hopes to lure the 20- and 30-somethings who frequent McHale's Irish pub, located across the street. But he and McHale's manager Ron Mathieu don't view each other as competition.
"If I was running a crappy restaurant or things weren't going well for me, yeah, I'd be kind of nervous," said Mathieu. "(But) you can't eat the same thing every day. This will kind of even it out. More restaurants equals more people downtown, which equals better business."
Opening a restaurant isn't the only challenge facing Dozier this year -- he's also getting married in December.
Though bride-to-be Meg Gettys is handling most of the wedding details, Dozier hopes to pitch in by hosting the rehearsal dinner at his new place.