GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Sustainable. Strong. Empowering. Determined. It’s almost impossible to have a conversation with Lee Comer and not hear her mention one or all four of those words.
Comer founded and runs the Fresh. Local. Good. Food Group based in Greensboro. Her company just launched the Piedmont Triad’s first multiplex food service establishment, The Morehead Foundry, in a 30,000-square-foot building that was a coal and ice factory when it was built back in the 1920s.
One could argue The Morehead Foundry anchors the southern part of Greensboro’s downtown. She was able to build the business after a successful rezoning effort along with a loan from the city and an urban development block grant. One of the four Downtown Greenway entrances is in her parking lot.
“I think Greensboro is changing so dramatically and so quickly, and I wanted to be a part of that,” she told me during a recent visit and tour of the complex.
Comer and her twin sister grew up in Asheboro dreaming of one day opening up their own two-story Pizza Hut. Comer would wait tables through high school and college before moving to Atlanta for a few years.
Then a desire to be closer to her sister and her sister’s children brought her back to Greensboro where, in 2010, she opened The Iron Hen Café near Fisher Park.
Last year, a second Iron Hen opened in downtown Asheville while -- at the same time -- Comer was developing an idea.
“We’ve all seen it in like a mall food court where you go up to a Taco Bell or a KFC. Well, behind the scenes that’s Aramark or Sodexo running the show," she said. “A shared kitchen. So that’s what kind of really got me thinking. That this could be done in a different landscape.”
That different landscape became the Foundry, which houses seven separate businesses and the Fresh. Local. Good. Food Group's corporate headquarters.
The three restaurants are:
The other businesses are:
The Hush (A members-only speakeasy)
The Public (A large room for private gatherings)
The building also houses Fresh. Local. Good.’s large catering business.
“We like to say, ‘Brands of a feather flock together,” she said.
Comer’s growth plans include stabilizing all of her existing businesses in 2017 and then perhaps opening several other Revolution Burger restaurants in different cities.