Growing up “shrimping and crabbing” on the North Carolina coast, Annette Brown brought her love to seafood to Knightdale and has found success
Q: How did someone who was not born on the coast and had no sea salt in their blood come to operate a seafood market and restaurant?
A: I was born and raised in Raleigh but when I was growing up, my parents bought a place on Topsail Island so we spent a lot of long weekends there so I grew up shrimping, crabbing, oystering – whatever that could be done, we did it. I graduated from Sanderson in 1986, about the same time my parents retired, and they moved to the coast. I moved down with them but moved back to Raleigh. It was great until our house was wiped out by Hurricane Hugo (1989). We built it back but then it got wiped out again by (Hurricane) Fran (1996). Building back the same house twice kind of gets to you – that is a lot of heartache- so my parents moved back up here. I worked in landscaping for a while but I really missed that way of life. You hear people say all the time you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone and that is so true. I missed being around that so I decided to locate a seafood market in the town I love (Knightdale).
Q: How did your affinity to the town of Knightdale begin?
A: Well, growing up in Raleigh, I saw how this area was going to explode soon – you could just feel it. I could see the potential. It is very rare to get a chance to be a part of a place that is about to explode and I wanted to take that chance.
Q: So you and your boyfriend Greg Knish first opened a seafood market, correct?
A: Yes, we opened in March 2009 and we only sold seafood. We would have wine tastings and discuss what wine or beer is best suited for a seafood dish – good pairings. At the beginning, we really didn’t have a staff – it was just Greg and I. Then a lot of our customers kept telling us, ‘You know, you should open up a restaurant.” My boyfriend and I both looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s go for it,’ so in 2011, we shut down for five weeks and pulled a rabbit out of our hat and opened A’Net’s Katch. When we first started in this business, we had plans of one day maybe expanding to Wake Forest and Cary but we decided we did not want to branch out until we had mastered what we have. We have seen five years of growth and sales. We have earned a good name. We have seen a profit every year and now we are bursting at the seams and looking for a tract of land to build a bigger restaurant. Our dream is to have an open-air roof top bar and have a restaurant downstairs.
Q: To what do you attribute your success?
A: We just both have a lot of passion for this. We try to touch each and every customer who walks in the door by acknowledging them, asking them how they are doing, asking them about their kids. That means a lot to our customers and we want to get to know them. We want to make this personal. And we offer them something different. We make our own sauces, our own batter and spices. We are constantly in the kitchen, trying something new.
Q: Your parents obviously instilled a love for the coast and all things seafood in you. Do they help out around the restaurant?
A: They helped out at first, when we were selling seafood, but they are getting up there in age and I want them to enjoy retirement. I am blessed to still have them. They do come and eat at the restaurant a lot.
Q: What are some of the customer favorites on the menu?
A: I think the low country boil – which is the combination of shrimp, corn, sausage. But we also have a lot of dips the customers like. Pretty much everything is good.
Q: So when you are not selling seafood or cooking it, what do you like to do?
A: I love to fish – ponds or lakes. I just love the lake life. I also have a huge love for Harleys. I have a crowd that I ride with.
Q: How did the love for Harleys begin?
A: When I was growing up, my father bought me a dirt bike, and then I later got a moped. I just kept accelerating. When I hit 40, I began thinking about my bucket list and I always wanted to be a Harley rider so I just went for it.
Q: What is the longest ride you have been on?
A: To the coast, of course.
Q: Any siblings? Any children?
A: I have a brother – he has a roofing company, and I am a proud mother of my son, 23, who is in the Navy and stationed in Japan.
Q: Your son is in the Navy? It just seems like your family has been surrounded by water most of their life. There is a saying by author Isak Dinesen that goes ‘The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.’ That seems to apply to you.
A: I like that saying. There is a lot of truth in it.
Correspondent Dena Coward