Center Stage Catering, Inc. recently announced that it will be opening a new restaurant in Rocky Mount. It will be called The Porch.
“We kind of feel like Robin Hood. We’re out there doing all this work, but the taxes come back to Rocky Mount, John Schopp, president and CEO of the business, said. “This is going to allow us to interact with Rocky Mount and stay a little closer to home. We’re excited.”
As a result of the pandemic, the catering business saw a dramatic decline in gigs. During the first two weeks of pandemic lockdowns last year, the business saw close to $800,000 worth of bookings evaporate. “Things got scary,” Schopp said.
To keep its staff busy and to provide a modest revenue stream, the business started offering pick-up and pop-up events on Fridays and Saturdays. “The community really supported us. They remembered Edible Vibe and liked what we were doing,” he said. “We assumed outdoor dining was always going to be a premium and not going away for a while, so we started thinking about how we could make this a more permanent part of what we do.”
Those events have temporarily stopped to allow for construction, which started at the end of August. Construction is being completed in phases. The first part includes the addition of a more proper dining space.
The building that the business uses is being cut into in order to build permanent restrooms. From there, the plan is to work on a nearby storage shed. A full kitchen, an HVAC system and additional restrooms will be added to it.
The inside of the shed is going to be a tequila-heavy speakeasy. Karaoke will be offered inside the lounge. Schopp said an emcee will be there to playfully roast performers as they attempt to make it all the way through songs.
“The inside is going to be sassy, but the outside is going to be more wholesome,” he said.
The porch, which will be used for outdoor dining, will maintain a more family-friendly environment. Fire pits and a nature area will be added to enhance the space aesthetically.
“The idea is the space will have intimate spaces for different groups to sit and hangout,” he said. “We want to build a show as much as we want to build a place for people to come and enjoy a beverage, alcoholic or not.”
The bar will include an extensive tequila offering, champagne, prosecco and blush wines. The beer selection will be limited, due to the fact Schopp doesn’t want to compete with local breweries.
“We want to have simple and easy food, but with nicer drinks so that it has a shabby chic thing going on,” he said. “The menus are going to have a very lean, core menu offering. We’ll have some good, basic food that we’ll be able to source locally.”
As a result of the pandemic, he said, it is cheaper to source ingredients locally in certain cases.
The plan is to resume the pop-up events in November.
Although the timeline for when everything will fully be complete is fluid due to construction staffing and material difficulties, Schopp has his eyes set for late spring or early summer of 2022.
“If everything works right, we plan on slowing down the catering a little bit because it is a hard life being out there cooking,” he said.
Center Stage Catering was started in Franklin County in 2000. For most of Center Stage’s history, it has been an off-site caterer for private events. Schopp has notably been Victor Wooten’s caterer for the past 16 years.
Roughly 10 years ago, the business opened a European-style café where The Whole Bean Coffee House is now. It was closed down when Schopp joined Virginia Western Community College, where he leads the baking and pastry program.
All of Center Stage Catering’s employees have been trained in a culinary program or are currently culinary students.