NEWTON GROVE – In a cozy, country-style restaurant, Karson McCullen wants visitors to feel at home or at their grandmother’s.
“We are people of faith and we pray that the Lord dwells here and when you walk in you feel His presence and enjoy good food,” McCullen said of the family business, serving the hearty breakfast and breakfast.
The Farm House, a cafe-bakery located on Raleigh Street in the heart of Newton Grove, opened in early November. Newton Grove is the home of owner McCullen. He grew up in a house across from the restaurant on Raleigh Street.
After graduating from Hobbton High School, where he was involved in a performing choir, the Beta Club and other organizations. McCullen signed up for online courses at Liberty University for business administration. He also sings and works for the Wilmington Celebration Choir, a touring gospel choir with over 50 members representing different churches and denominations in eastern North Carolina.
“I’ve always been a backstage person,” he said. “I like business, office work and stuff like that. So the transition to the kitchen background was not too difficult.
He thought about opening the restaurant in Wilmington, but decided to build it in northern Sampson County.
“I remember seeing this building all my life,” McCullen said of the property Gary Mac Herring previously used for his company MaryMack’s, which specializes in the production of crushed ice and snow cones. “As a child, it was a place you used to come to get slushes. It’s just great how it went so I was able to be here.
While growing up in town, he was involved with Boy Scouts of America and earned an Eagle Scout ranking – the organization’s highest honor. One of her favorite activities was cooking and participating in competitions. He learned a lot from the wife of his scout leader.
“This is where I got some of my love of cooking from,” he said.
It is also from his grandmother, Deborah Whitman. At a young age, McCullen began cooking with his cousins. Together they made candy for members of the community. Her mother, Sherry House, was also influential when it came to cultivating her culinary skills.
“She’s the first person you’ll see when you come here,” McCullen said of his mother posted behind The Farm House ledger.
House has never worked in town and enjoys meeting people who live in Newton Grove and visitors from other areas.
“I’m already having regulars and learning their names,” House said.
In the morning, a hot breakfast bar is available with choices such as scrambled eggs, a casserole of hash browns, baked apples, and meats such as bacon, country ham, and sausages. Later during lunch, one of the most important things on the menu is the chicken salad sandwich. Other choices include grilled cheese, chili cheese, and the Circle City BLT. Sweets such as donuts and cakes are also available from the bakery.
Work began at the end of April. Meanwhile, COVID-19 was a major challenge with the renovation. But overall, McCullen said The Farm House has been blessed and they’re happy to be open.
“Someday we would like to expand our restaurant and create more seating,” he said, looking to the future. “We would also like to have a gift shop here too. It’s on the road, but that’s the goal.
This story first appeared in the Thursday electronic edition. It is available here for the first time in print. Contact Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.