Greg Carlyle usually works at Local 27101 through lunch, greeting guests, clearing tables, taking orders and making free deliveries to Downtown WS workers. Sometimes he veers off to his office at the Millennium Center to take a booking or supervise the prep for an event.
Today he’s got a couple of spare minutes, so I order a po-boy loaded with fried Gulf Coast shrimp on a hoagie roll topped with lettuce, tomato and sauce gribische, and he orders a Carolina Dog from the counter.
“We’re only open for lunch right now, as most dinner customers prefer to linger and enjoy more traditional meals,” he says.
The need he saw was for a high-quality, quick service lunch spot – “fast casual” — for locals by locals, with a simple but excellent menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and sides that could be ordered and eaten in about 25 minutes.
“Fresh food, fast,” he says.
He insists on keeping delivery in house, covering downtown. “We have a driver and runner to keep turnaround times tight. And it’s always free without a minimum,” he says. “I do not want to trust our delivery to the recent app-based delivery services. All our staff makes deliveries from time to time. Some of the people we deliver lunch to often show up at the Millennium Center for special events.”
Carlyle knows how Downtown WS works. He began his business on Summit Street in 1979. The G Carlyle Salon quickly became a top Winston Salem salon. In 2009 after 30 years, he sold the salon and dedicated all of his time to the Millennium Center
During the salon years, Greg was a guest artist in the beauty industry and traveled throughout North America and western Europe performing at hair shows. Many mid-sized cities were being revived throughout the US and he got a firsthand look at this renaissance.
After seeing Richmond, Va.; San Diego; Baltimore; Greenville, SC and many other cities, he realized Winston-Salem was going to have a revival. While visiting Fort Worth, Texas he noticed a city with a downtown similar to that of Winston-Salem in size and scope, and visited a place called Caravan of Dreams.
“The building had a jazz club, restaurant, theatre, design space and a geodesic dome with 400 plants from around the world,” he remembers.
He wondered if he might replicate it in downtown Winston Salem.
In 1994, he bought the old post office and renamed it the Millennium Center. It has since become a premier downtown location for corporate events, wedding celebrations and nonprofit fundraisers. In addition, it hosts local, regional and national touring artists and music festivals.
“We are a full-service venue with 5-star food, full ABC permits, audio visual services and a decorating department in house,” Carlyle says.
And then he opened a restaurant.
“Local 27101 was developed so we could provide full-time work for our chefs, bartenders and servers,” he says. He outfitted the place with wood indigenous to North Carolina, loaded the menu with regional favorites like the Carolina dog – “That is older than I am.” — the requisite slate of burgers and some salads for the health-conscious. He put on a list of sides and added po-boys to the menu as well. “Po-boys are a New Orleans stable but a po-boy is also like a shrimp or oyster sandwich you get at the beach in North Carolina.”
The Local is chugging along through lunch hour and the Millennium Center has become a Camel City Institution after nearly 25 years.
“Neighborhood artists have contributed a great deal to the aesthetic of both spaces and continue to provide creative services as we continue to evolve.”
Greg Carlyle still doesn’t have his downtown geodesic dome. But then, after 40 years in Downtown WS, he’s not finished yet.
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