Mick McCardle’s journey to buy Lulu’s began while he was tooling around Western North Carolina on his motorcycle years ago. Passing through Sylva while on vacation, McCardle couldn’t help but picture himself living in the idyllic mountain town.
“I thought ‘I really love it here,’” McCardle said. “What the heck, if an opportunity comes available, I’ll look into it.”
Last January, he began looking around and stumbled upon Lulu’s. With a background in hospitality management and a son, Devin, who is a culinary school graduate and working chef, Mick thought it’d be a great match. During the next few months, Mick underwent what he characterized as more of an interview process than a business transaction in the lead up to the purchase.
Mick said the previous owners, Kim Anthony and Laura McBane, were thorough in making sure Mick and Devin would be a good fit for the restaurant and the community. McBane and Anthony are the second owners of the establishment, which opened in 1989, though they worked there for years before taking over.
Eventually, after several meetings and discussions, they decided the father-son pair would be a good match. Now, Mick and Devin are anxious to take the restaurant to new heights.
“They decided it would be a good match and here we are,” Mick said, after winning the stamp of approval to buy the joint.
Devin has already relocated with his wife and six-month-old child from the Outer Banks, where he was working as a chef, to WNC. Mick has yet to make the move from South Carolina, but his son seems pretty comfortable holding the reigns for the time being.
The 33-year-old Devin already has a list of ideas for Lulu’s, from opening up a full bar inside to incorporating more meat options into the vegetarian-heavy menu.
While taking over a restaurant like Lulu’s with an established clientele has its benefits — a loyal following and name recognition — it also means the new owners have to show restraint when playing with the food offerings.
To help with the transition, Devin gave one of Lulu’s current staff the title of sous chef. Staple plates serves at Lulu’s, like the Italian pasta salad and the ‘a la Grecque,’ will not be lost in the shuffle, he promises.
“There are lot of things on our menu that people really, really like — so we’re not going to change that,” Devin said.
But his shortlist of new food ideas include incorporating more fresh produce grown in Jackson County, seasonal meats like duck, quail and venison, and hormone free, quality steaks. With a culinary career that trained him in classical French cuisine and had him working as a chef in Southern Louisiana, New England and the South, Devin might get a little experimental from time to time to see how the community reacts.
“It’s trial and error, I guess, and seeing how the community takes it,” he said. “I like to say I have an eclectic view on culinary arts.”