The popular restaurant will open on Monday to the delight of its customers after being closed for months due to Florence.
During Hurricane Florence, Stephen Holland took a boat everyday to the location of his Burgaw restaurant, Holland’s Shelter, to check on the damage from flooding. What he found was a worsening situation, as the flood water was actually moving his restaurant from its foundations.
Holland owned the restaurant for 37 years. It survived previous hurricane flooding, like Floyd in 1999, but the damage Florence brought by removing the building from its foundations was staggering.
“By the time the floating was over,” Holland said. “I knew what had happened.”
Holland said five months passed while he was still trying to decide what to do. To rebuild in the same spot would’ve been costly and required him to raise the restaurant 12 feet in the air to avoid a similar damage in the future. That plan was unfeasible. Thankfully, he got an offer from a couple, Mike and Annette Barnes, who had been eating at Holland’s Shelter for 25 years. They had been working on a building on a property they owned in Holly Ridge, and asked him to come look at it. Eventually, he agreed to reopen the restaurant.
Holland’s Shelter will reopen this Monday at 756 East Ocean Highway in Holly Ridge, bringing the former Burgaw staple back to business. The new restaurant will have a screened-in porch, a sun deck, and a brand new kitchen three times as large as the last one, according to Holland. It will still serve the same popular seafood, subs, and cajun-style menu, from catfish to frog legs, but will be able to seat about a hundred more people than the last building.
"We got a really nice building," Holland said. "I think it's going to work out good for all of us."
He expects business to be busier in the larger town of Holly Ridge, and said dozens of people have come to the new building everyday asking when he will open again.
“I got a feeling we’re going to see many of them in the next week,” Holland said.
Holland said a family from Japan, who visits North Topsail Beach for vacation every year, sent him a check for $300 when they heard about the extensive damage to his restaurant, saying they wanted to continue eating there when they came back.
“We love our customers,” he said. “They love us but we love them to.”
The new building will also include the familiar fixtures of the last one. Photographs nearly 100 years old will still adorn the walls and taxidermy animals will greet customers. Holland said the restaurant will continue to sell clothing, jams, Holland’s own coffee line, and a selection of ice cream.
“It’s just a really neat place,” Holland said.
Holland, 71, said he has been working seven days a week nearly his entire life, including at the restaurant. For 18 years he was the head cook until an accident injured his back. When asked how he has been able to be a success in the food business, Holland didn’t have a secret, and instead praised his employees, many of whom have been with him for decades.
“It feels good that you’re doing something right,” Holland said. “I got some of the best employees.”
One of those employees is Melanie Parker, who has worked at Holland’s Shelter for 24 years and first started eating there at the age of 9. Her mother, Sandy McBryant, worked at Holland’s Shelter for almost 23 years. When she saw pictures of the flooding on Facebook, she said she was devastated. However, if the restaurant reopened again at the same place or a different location, she couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.
“I knew that wherever it opened at that’s where I was going,” Parker said. “This is all I know.”
Holland said a few other employees from the previous building would be coming back to work at the new one, including Parker and two cooks. Mike and Annette Parker will be helping and working at the restaurant; they now own part of the restaurant. Their daughter, Jordan, who earned a hospitality management degree from Cape Fear Community College, will be the manager of the new restaurant. She also designed the new website and is implementing a new barcode and computer system for Holland’s Shelter.
“She can do it all,” Holland said.
Since deciding to bring the restaurant to Holly Ridge, Holland said every official in Onslow county has been more than welcoming.
“We couldn’t ask for nicer people to work with,” Holland said. “Everyone has just been as helpful as they can be to make us feel like we’re home.”
Holland and his restaurant have traveled a long journey from being submerged in flood water to finding a new home in a different city. For all the praise his gives to his employees, customers, partners, and faith, the continuation of 37 years of success seems deserved.
“If it wasn’t for the Lord I wouldn’t have been able to bounce back,” Holland said. “I thank Him everyday.”
Reporter Kevin Vandenburg can be reached at 910-219-8453 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For digital subscription information, click here.