Hula Girl Ice Cream and Grill came from humble beginnings.
The Selma restaurant that serves burgers, hot dogs, wings and steak got its start as an ice cream stand that Rose Pittman and her husband, Ray, set up as a way to make extra money.
“We both had full-time jobs but we needed to earn some extra income,” Pittman said. “So we bought a concession stand trailer that had a shaved ice machine in it and was upfitted so you could sell ice cream.”
In 2007, the couple started hauling the stand to area festivals on weekends but grew weary. The owner of TWM’s Antique Mall in Selma allowed them to park the stand at the mall where it was easy for residents, shoppers, and passersby to stop by for ice cream.
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The Pittmans, who live in Kenly, operated the stand seven days a week from March through October, hiring staff to run it during the weekdays when they were at their regular jobs. They kept it going for four years until they were too tired to do it any longer.
“We still had our full-time jobs, and we would come home in the evenings and work in the concession stand at night and on weekends,” Pittman said. “We were tired of working outside, and it had become too much.”
In 2011, the Pittmans were on the verge of going out of business when a small space became available for lease in the foyer of the building on West Railroad Street that also housed Ginny O’s Gourmet Cheese Straws.
The space had a narrow strip of floor that was occupied by a large cooler stocked with buckets of ice cream, and a counter-top just large enough for a cash register. The couple added hot dogs and hamburgers as a way to increase business, and put picnic tables, which seat about 50, on the front lawn.
Behind the counter was a small food preparation area.
Ginny O’s moved out in 2013, and the Pittmans took over the entire building. They added grills and fryers, and expanded their menu to include dishes such as steak dinners.
“We’ve been a full-fledged restaurant for two years,” said Pittman, 51.
In 2013, Rose Pittman was enjoying cooking and Ray Pittman liked being his own boss. So she retired from her job as a guidance counselor at North Johnston Middle School, and Ray, 56, retired from his job in accounting so they could devote their time to the restaurant.
To expand their company’s reach, the Pittmans in 2014 rented a building a block away and started Hula Girl Catering and Venue, with a kitchen and dining space for 100 that allows them to host and cater events.
Even with 15 employees and without their full-time jobs, the Pittmans are still working long hours and rarely take a day off.
“The restaurant involves hard work and long hours, but it’s worth it,” Ray Pittman said. “There’s nothing better than being your own boss.”
Reach Teri Saylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet her @terisaylor.
Advice from Roy and Rose Pittman
▪ Think long and hard before you start your business, especially if it is a restaurant. It is the hardest work you will ever do in your life.
▪ Do your homework first.
▪ Despite the hard work and long hours, it’s worth it. There’s nothing better than being your own boss.