VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - "You'll have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming."
That's what Ryan Hines says every time News 3 visits The Rustic Spoon...and it's been a lot over the past year.
Hines and his two longtime friends, Nick Pogue and Jay Kulas, built the restaurant from the ground up and opened it February 12, 2020 as a brunch spot for the Thoroughgood, Chic's Beach and Ocean Park areas of Virginia Beach. Days earlier, Hines had just celebrated the birth of his second child.
Early weekends were met with large crowds and long waits, but in mid-March, COVID-19 hit, restrictions went into effect and the bottom fell out.
Sales dropped 80 percent and The Rustic Spoon, a restaurant that didn't have a chance to build a following, entered survival mode.
"We bobbed and weaved the whole time," said Hines, looking back on 2020.
Earlier this month came the big one-year anniversary. The Rustic Spoon didn't do much to celebrate outside of a social media post, but it was a big moment for the men behind it.
"At this point in time, since we are a year in, we definitely are a little more at ease, definitely still on a wait on the weekends which is unbelievable," Hines told News 3 on Friday. "It's been unreal when we think of how much support we've gotten."
Hines says he feels lucky to still be open when other business haven't been able to survive.
The Rustic Spoon did what it could; adding a dinner business, which is still growing, and spreading the word on social media.
But it's the food and staff that keep people like Jazmynne Blue coming back, who usually stops in for a meal after her shifts as a nurse working with COVID patients at a local hospital.
"It's nice when you finally get off to come here and relax and you know just be free. This is always one of my favorite places to go after a long shift," she said.
Having built a following and feeling more stable following strong January and February sales, typically a slow time for restaurants, Hines says The Rustic Spoon is looking ahead to warmer days.
"We do have some plans to make some adjustments outside to make the outside seating more friendly with a new cover out there," he told News 3.
But until then, it's crossed fingers that things will only go up from here.
"[Dinner sales] are getting better, Happy Hour is getting better, everything is getting better," Hines said. "The equation and the formula, everything is working and that's fantastic."
The Rustic Spoon is located on Pleasure House Road and is open seven days a week.