Mighty J’s Restaurant

Pembroke, NC

Mighty J’s Restaurant, conveniently located across from the campus of UNC- Pembroke, is comprised of two J’s – James Freeman and Jason Kennedy. The J’s met while attending school at UNC-Pembroke, and realized that the area lacked a place where somebody could hang out and have some food. They saw a need for this type of establishment and wanted to make a change.

They started by calling franchises and quickly realized they would need too much money. The light bulb came on and they decided to start their very own restaurant – and they never looked back.

At the time, Jason was taking an economic development course, which provided him the basic information he would need to get started. They took their idea to Beth Wilkerson, Assistant Regional Director at the SBTDC. “We said, ‘Here’s our idea, here’s how much money we have. How can we make it happen?’”

The J’s needed help with everything – a business plan, funding, marketing, location, menu items and more. “Jason and I took a text book from the university and built an outline for a business plan. Then Beth would highlight in yellow things that needed to change,” said James.

They discovered a former Huddle House across from campus that would make the perfect location for their restaurant, and Mighty J’s opened for business in October 2010. It’s the only establishment of its kind in Pembroke, and business is good. The local community as well as the university has welcomed the restaurant, and at least 50% of their visitors are repeat customers.

The Mighty J’s atmosphere is open, inviting, and family-friendly. A long bar extends across the restaurant complemented by booth seating along the windows. Flat-screen televisions are visible from every seat, and UNC-Pembroke pride is evident from the décor down to the menu (which reads, “Go Braves.”) The menu includes traditional bar food such as fried pickles, hot wings, ultimate cheese fries, burgers and homemade sauces.

The restaurant will soon introduce outdoor seating, also new to the town of Pembroke.

James and Jason give a lot of credit to Beth and the SBTDC for helping get their restaurant started. The relationship remains strong, as Beth continues to follow up, offer guidance and help solve problems along the way. They describe the SBTDC as understandable and open-minded to ideas, and knowledgeable about how to get businesses going.

For those thinking of starting a business of their own, Jason says, “You’re going to have a lot of doubts from yourself and others, but if you stick to it with the right plan, the right place, and the right idea – go for it!” James adds, “Ask questions. You’re not going to know everything, so ask someone who knows the answers. We started with a composition notebook and jotted down every idea and question and went to Beth.”

There is no doubt that these J’s are mighty. The duo is now looking to move into real estate, bringing a Greek housing area to campus where they will rent rooms to fraternity and sorority members – with help from the SBTDC.

Story originally featured in the SBTDC's 2010-11 Annual Report.

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