John grew up in a suburb in Indiana and studied political science at Indiana University. He furthered his education by obtaining an associate degree at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago formally known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. He began working as a chef in Chicago for a while until he was offered a job in Bradenton, Florida, to be a country club chef.
John traveled around Florida for years while working similar jobs which is where he met his wife, Peta. In 2008 the newly married couple went on a Southeastern road trip to decide where they were going to plant their roots next. John explained, “Once I moved out of the cold, I was never going back!” During their trip, the DeBordieu Club called him for an interview. Once they arrived, all they saw was Georgetown and instantly fell in love with the area.
The couple moved soon after and began their new lives along the Grand Strand. John went through several different kitchens and positions, which he declared all as great places to work, but decided to leave the restaurant business for a bit. He started a fun job with New South Brewery in Myrtle Beach working as their sales, marketing, and public relations liaison. John always knew he wanted to start a restaurant business with his own high-quality standards and expectations but wanted to smartly wait for the right time, location, and business partners.
John made a friend immediately after his move to the area, Keith Estabrook, and they clicked instantly. The pair worked together through the years at multiple locations. They knew they would do well in business together as a team because they shared a similar vision for changing the game within the restaurant industry. After twelve years of discussing ideas over their home-cooked meals together, they finally brought their aspirations to life this year. The duo opened their dream restaurant, “Local,” in a beautiful, historical building located in the Pawleys Island Hammock Shops. It’s a big building which has been a huge benefit for them during the pandemic with social distancing. For example, they were able to have seventy-nine people for trivia recently. They held seventeen separate teams throughout the building and no team was anywhere close to another.
Local: Eat, Drink, Celebrate. The “eat” is the family-friendly dining room. The “drink” is regarding the taproom and everything past it, which is eighteen years old and up only. This area includes the lounge section which has a stage built for live music. Right now, they are offering a jazz brunch every Saturday. The “celebrate” is associated with the upstairs banquet facility available for events. John takes on the role of general manager while Keith is the executive chef. Peta, having a background as a banquet captain in high-end places in New York as well as working at several successful restaurants in this area, is the bar manager and event planner.
John and Keith’s pursuit to change the game of the service industry is displayed by paying their servers over the minimum wage and paying their cooks a wage they truly deserve. The co-owners have set a goal to offer benefits to all of their full-time employees after one year. Others have mocked them for having this in their business plan because the restaurant business is such a small game of margins that those objectives aren’t usually made possible. John and Keith are determined to beat those odds and work hard enough to provide better service to their employees who provide such great service to all their guests. During COVID-19 and before the new restaurant was open, the duo did a pandemic prep where they cooked a dozen lasagnas, twenty chicken pot pies, and lots of soups. They dropped them off at all of their friends’ houses who were startled over their job loss within the restaurant business.
John admitted to me that he has always been a bit of a scrooge for the holidays, which Peta has been working on for twelve years. The couple started a tradition right before they got married called an “orphan’s Christmas.” Back in Florida, they worked with tons of people who were from all over the world such as Romania, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, and the Philippines. All in all, there were about twelve languages spoken in his kitchen at the country clubs. John and Peta opened up their house for all of those without local family to be a part of their family and have a place to celebrate Christmas. They have continued their tradition here and it has grown tremendously – maybe even a little out of hand; one of their most recent Christmas’ fed thirty-five people and John used his bonus to buy a full prime rib to roast. They usually set up a full family-style table and always make sure everyone feels welcome.
The co-owners want their guests to feel this same hospitality when they enter Local, like they are walking into their own home. They strive for Local to be an atmosphere where everyone can comfortably eat, drink, and celebrate together. There’s a reason the couple stayed in Pawleys Island even through their ups and downs. When I asked John what he feels most blessed for this holiday season, with no hesitation, he said, “the town and the people of Pawleys Island. We use the term “framily” to describe all of the friends we are close to here. Besides our two dogs and cat, we really don’t have any relatives here, but we certainly do still have family.”
John informed me that Local will be a part of the grand Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony as well as the Festival of Trees which benefits the Tidelands hospice, both taking place in the Hammock Shops. Local will be open for brunch on Christmas Eve but closed on Christmas Day as the owners and their staff all have their own special celebrating to enjoy.