There aren’t many places to eat in Corolla during the winter, but Rich and Denise Schmitt- owners of Off The Wall Tap House - are determined to be one of them. With around 60 years of combined restaurateur experience, it looks like they can be.
“We stay open all year round. We want to be part of the community,” Rich said.
During the off-season, they have specials on Thursday nights for the locals.
“Grilled cheese and tomato soup night, meatloaf - we do some cool things," Rich said. "Locals and homeowners [are] really good to us.”
In December of 2018, the Schmitts held a community appreciation party for everyone that supported them throughout the year.
“We want to do it every year. It was a blast,” Denise added.
High-Tech & Hometown: Creating a Unique Kind of Tap House
Off the Wall Tap House opened July 10, 2018, and includes a dog-friendly patio space with seating for up to 80 people, as well as a family-friendly kids’ menu.
“A lot of people that do tap houses don’t have a full bar. We have a full bar, wine and cocktails," Rich said. "I went to school to be a chef a long time ago, so we make a lot of food from scratch. We are really food strong. We get fresh seafood in three, four, five days a week."
Off The Wall Tap House uses iPourIt self-serve software, a metering system with bracelets that work with iPads mounted on the wall. iPourIt authenticates a patron’s driver’s license, age and credit card information. The metering system then charges by the ounce.
Denise explained how they became aware of the self-serve system: “We were in Chicago for the National Restaurant Association show and were interested in the software that at the time was developing and kept following it, talking to some companies to see how they developed.”
Drivers can see the Tap House from N.C. 12 and the Schmitt’s plan to add A-frame signs to draw attention. For additional marketing, they’re arranging advertisements on three local radio stations and placing print material in select realty companies’ welcome packets.
They also participate in geofencing, which is a location-based digital marketing tool that lets marketers send trackable messages to smartphone users in a certain geographic area.
“We can tell if they opened our ad and then walked through our front door,” Denise said.
To help guests know what's going on in the community, the Schmitts will have a television running graphics for local events. It will be constantly scrolling to help people see what is going on in Corolla, Currituck County and the Outer Banks.
Rich stated how important word of mouth is, “We go everywhere and we try to spread it around. We know our strengths, we know everybody else’s strengths. It’s good for business.”
Slowing Down: Getting Comfortable in Corolla
The couple have been coming to the Outer Banks for close to 25 years. They like Corolla’s small town feel with boutique businesses and no big chain restaurants.
They started out together at a resort in their home state of Pennsylvania. Over the years, the couple has been involved in many restaurants.
“Our last one was 16,000 square feet in State College, PA,” Rich said.
The Schmitts are still partners in that restaurant and in an 8,000 square foot brew pub there, too.
Denise explained how they were able to make the move to Corolla.
“We just don’t manage [the other restaurants] anymore. That’s what we had to remove ourselves from. We wanted to do [the move] much quicker, but it just wasn’t possible," Denise said. "The last four years we came down four or five times a year at different times and stayed in different neighborhoods so we knew where we wanted to be. We had talked for years about retiring here and then decided what are we waiting for? We love it here.”
It Takes a Team: Getting Off the Wall Off the Ground
“We contacted Peter Bishop who was the head of economic development [for Currituck County] at the time. He hooked us up with Sam Miller and we worked with Sam for probably two and a half years to complete the process. They also hooked us up with Sandy and Dan LaRue at Corolla Beach Realty.”
The LaRues helped them find their commercial location as well as their home in The Currituck Club.
“Sam was really instrumental. He introduced us to everybody. He walked us through the process,” Rich said.
Sam Miller, owner of Miller Homes & Building, was able to help get the Tap House ready to open in 80 days.
Rich continued, “Everyone wanted us open. They knew we wanted to get open as fast as possible.”
Denise was very pleased with the experience saying, “Everyone at Economic Development was super helpful. The county was terrific. We met with everyone. We took our plans to the county and everyone looked at them and made suggestions. No one wasted our time.”
Her advice to businesses looking to open in Currituck, “Do your research. Talk to everybody that is available to you, Economic Development, anyone in the county. Anybody here will sit down and talk to you about the area... other business owners- everybody is helpful. They want to see everybody succeed here. It’s good for the community.”
The Schmitts love their new community with Rich stating, “We want to do some charity work this year.”
Denise summed up the couple’s attitude by saying, “You want to give back. If you’re going to be in a community - be in it.”
Off The Wall Tap House is located at 603 G Currituck Clubhouse Drive. Contact them at (252) 489-5114 or visit their website at offthewalltaphouse.com.