Your restaurants certainly emulate theater, and those familiar with Leon’s, Little Jack’s, and Melfi’s would agree. But how would you describe each? What’s their “secret sauce,” in your opinion?
Brooks: I describe Leon's as a breezy oyster and fried chicken joint, Little Jack's is a classic American tavern, and Melfi's is a classic and clubby Italian spot. If we have any at all, I'd say our "secret sauce" is creating great spaces where people like to be, hiring nice people, knowing who we are, delivering consistent food over many years, and keeping the places clean.
We can attest to all of this, deeply loving each spot. Charleston has a burgeoning food and fashion scene. Describe those scenes for those who may not know.
Brooks: The food scene is astounding. It has no business being as good as it is. This city has attracted a lot of talent, and we're lucky enough to have a customer base - both locals and tourists - that appreciate and support what we do. Honestly, we are spoiled.
Erin: In terms of fashion, I am most inspired by the old-school preppy shops on King Street, menswear-focused. Charleston has a lovely tradition of a “sense of occasion” when it comes to dress. You can go out to dinner and get dressed up and not feel out of place.
And on the subject of Charleston - what are your favorite things about life there?
Brooks: The weather, the access to nature, and the pace.
Erin: It is a relaxed place to live. Charming, walkable, and most of all, we have a community of like-minded creative friends who mean the world to us.
What are a few of your favorite things to do, eat, and see?
Brooks: Run in Hampton Park, bike through South of Broad, see a movie at the Terrace Theater, shop the Sea Island Farmer's Market, buy local fish and shrimp from the docks, long lunch at Chez Nous with great wine, lunch with friends at Leon's on a beautiful spring day, nature hikes through Laurel Hill County Park, and a cold Pilsner at Munkle Brewing on a brisk fall or winter afternoon.
Erin: I obviously love Brooks’ restaurants. A shrimp burger at Little Jacks, the Siam salad at Leon's, and the Stretch Armstrong pizza at Melfi’s. I am also a die-hard fan of Chez Nous. This is my lady lunch and date spot. We love evening picnics on the beach on Sullivans Island, weekend strolls through Hampton Park, and, yes, a beer at Munkle Brewery.
We’ve rightfully gotten sidetracked and could talk Charleston all day. But Erin - back to you. Were you also creative from the beginning, and did you always know you’d end up where you are now?
Erin: I have always been very creative. My earliest memories are of my brother making fun of me for making sculptures out of trash as a kid. [Laughs] Now, it’s one of my favorite things to do with my 4-year-old son! I studied photography and sculpture in college, along side studying business. I had never considered fashion. I had moved to NYC after college and was looking for marketing jobs until a fateful meeting with a woman in a bar who was a clothing designer and was looking for an intern. I began to work for her the very next morning, and after just a few moments in the studio, I realized that this [design] was what I wanted to do for my career. It was the perfect combination of art and business.