Smithfield Herald

The road to Serendipity

Diners enjoy drinks and appetizer samples at Serendipity Road’s soft opening Sept. 29.
Diners enjoy drinks and appetizer samples at Serendipity Road’s soft opening Sept. 29.

Some restaurants are known for their coffee, others for their hearty breakfasts. Still others are the obvious choice for dinner and drinks.

Serendipity Road aims to be all of those things and more.

The new restaurant at 227 E. Market St. has farm-to-table fare, local craft beer and wine, its own brand of coffee and a display case full of baked goods prepared by an in-house pastry chef. It opened Tuesday, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Owner Melanie Harris worked in the schools for 25 years before deciding she wanted to open a coffee shop. She and her husband, Jeff Higdon, began looking for a space in January.

Over time, the coffee shop evolved into a full-service restaurant.

“We thought, ‘A coffee shop is great, but you can’t make it off just a coffee shop,’ ” Harris said.

She and her husband enjoyed making wine, so that was an obvious addition to the Serendipity Road menu. Then came food and craft beer.

Harris’ family owned a small business, so she has some experience. Since signing the lease this past winter, she and Higdon have assembled a team, repurposed some antiques and poured most of their savings into the eatery.

The menu has a Low Country feel, with offerings that include a BLP, or bacon, lettuce and pimento cheese, and pork tenderloin with balsamic cherry sauce, mashed potatoes and candied carrots.

Because the menu features farm-to-table fare, 65 percent of daily offerings will depend on what is available fresh locally. The other third of the menu will not change. The restaurant also serves specialty coffee drinks, including espresso and cappuccinos.

Serendipity Road is the fourth restaurant to occupy the space at 227 E. Market St. Built in 2002, the space was first home to Riverside Coffee Shop. The Cakery set up shop in 2011 but moved to U.S. 70 east of Smithfield after shifting its focus from full-service lunch and breakfast to baked goods only. Most recently, the building was home to Market Street Coffee & Bakery.

Serendipity Road has longer hours than any of those places, and that’s one reason Smithfield-Selma Chamber leader Rick Childrey thinks it will succeed. He thinks the full-service restaurant will bring people downtown, benefiting surrounding businesses.

“The more places that open downtown, that just helps bring more people to the town all times of day,” Childrey said. “Kind of like a shopping center, when you have all the stores open rather than just one, it brings people in.”

The restaurant has a good business plan and gives downtown Smithfield another after-work destination, said Sarah Edwards, executive director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp.

General manager Deborah Myers brings 30 years of restaurant experience to table, most recently at Sweetwater’s Grille & Cheesecake Co. in Selma. She was drawn to Serendipity Road because of the menu’s variety and its farm-to-table fare.

“(Harris) pretty much gives us free rein to let us cook things that are interesting and exciting,” Myers said. “I just thought it had something different.”

Serendipity Road has its own brand of coffee. It will also sell locally-made jewelry and artwork, plus a dry rub made in-house.

Harris’ vision extends beyond East Market Street. She and a team are turning the former Pepsi bottling plant in Selma into an event space and catering operation. Until that’s ready to go, they’ll do catering out of the Smithfield restaurant. They were scheduled to cater this weekend’s Ava Gardner Festival.

The furnishings at Serendipity Road are distinct. The bar is coated with copper and trimmed in tobacco sticks. The tables are made of old barn wood. The wrought-iron fencing out front was once used in a graveyard.

“Everything we have in here, we either found in a farm or repurposed from somewhere else,” Harris said. “My dad was a history teacher for a part of my life. He always taught me to value things from the past.”

Childrey said he thinks the community will embrace the new restaurant. “(Harris) put her heart and soul into this; it’s got character,” he said at the soft opening on Monday. “That’s what you really try to promote in your community – what makes it unique.”

Also on the menu

Elsewhere in Smithfield, the former Arby’s building at 1202 N. Bright Leaf Blvd. has come down. Going up in its place is a building that will be home to a Little Caesars pizza, a hair salon and a wireless retailer. That’s the word from Smithfield planning director Paul Embler.

At 1691 S. Bright Leaf, El Barzon Mexican Restaurant & Bar will open in a building that has been home to a restaurant, gift store and insurance agency, among other things. Beatriz Baldovinos, one of the owners, expects the authentic Mexican eatery to open by month’s end.