By Emily Honeycutt – [email protected] – Design Editor | Nov. 10, 2014 |
Byron Carlile bounces around the back area of Grand Central Pizza and Deli, moving from pizza oven to deli counter. He disappears behind the drink machine, only to reappear back at the cash register.
The movements look frenzied, but he approaches each task with confidence and ease.
At the age of 18, Carlile didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He came to UNC Asheville to learn to be a psychologist. Or a sociologist. Or both.
“I didn’t finish school there,” Carlile says. “I really didn’t know what to do, making that decision of what I wanted to major in at such a young age.”
Carlile, now 30, began his enrollment at UNCA in 2005 after attending a two-year college in his hometown of Shelby, N.C.
When he started classes in Asheville, he got a part-time at Circle on the Square, a pizzeria in North Asheville.
Carlile says he became the general manager of the restaurant after working for the owners for seven years. Then, two years later, the owners offered to sell the North Asheville location to him.
He accepted and renamed the restaurant Grand Central Pizza and Deli.
He was only 29 years old.
Owning his own business quickly became a monetary struggle for Carlile.
“After purchasing the food and everything for my first day open, I only had 50 bucks in my pocket,” Carlile says.
Although Carlile was running the business for two years before his ownership, he says his views on how businesses function changed immensely. He says the stress becomes more intense with his money on the line.
Carlile isn’t simply the owner now, though. He remained a regular employee after opening Grand Central.
“I’m here all the time, anyways,” Carlile says. “That’s one thing I wanted to do. Since it hasn’t been very long — it’s only been a year for me — I’m going to pick up the mop if I have to, and I’m going to do the same things that any of the other employees are going to do.”
Adam Unruh started work for Carlile last April. Carlile, Unruh says, creates no disconnect between himself and his employees. Carlile makes pizzas and takes food orders just like everyone else.
Not only is Carlile a solid member of the team, Unruh says he also sees his employees’ needs as people.
“He understands that this isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of your life,” Unruh says. “He’s going to work with whatever you need outside of that so you can maintain and balance the two.”
For Carlile, however, his business is his life.
“Before they offered to sell me this location, I was trying to figure out what my next route would be and what my major would be, and I thought about culinary school,” Carlile says.
As soon as Carlile considered making plans to go to Charleston or Johnson and Wales for culinary school, the previous owners gave him an offer that made everything fall into place.
“I don’t want to sit down for a living,” Carlile says. “That’s kind of where I was headed, and I would rather not do that for my life. I would rather make less money and stand up and do hands on things. It just comes down to what I imagine would make me happy.”
Carlile says he grew as a person during his first few years in Asheville, despite not receiving a degree.
“I have absolutely no regrets for not finishing my degree,” Carlile says. “Even though I didn’t get a diploma for it, I would never take back the education I got from UNCA.”
Carlile says the restaurant fell into a steady rhythm after being open for a year.
Carlile says he and his employees have a close relationship compared to other restaurants. Carlile saw only four employees come and go in the last year. There are only nine people on staff.
Although chemistry exists among the staff and Carlile is an understanding boss, he says he believes reward stems from hard work.
Reflecting on what he went through to get to this point, Carlile says a person will never get more if they don’t act like they’re already there to begin with. That concept has been his approach since he first entered the restaurant in 2005.
“With a degree or no degree, I’m a graduate from UNCA, and I’m also a graduate from life lessons,” Carlile says. “That’s definitely what has put me where I’m at.”
Looking to the future, Carlile says he definitely wants to open a second restaurant. Eventually, he wants Grand Central to be successful enough to have a location in downtown Asheville.
For now, Carlile continues doing what is necessary.
He makes pizzas. He takes order. He picks up the mop.
Returning to the kitchen, he blends in with the other employees.
“You just got to show up everyday and put your best into it,” Carlile says.