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Amy Fortes Leads Trend to Locally Owned Restaurants

Amy Fortes Leads Trend to Locally
Owned Restaurants

When Amy and Jon Fortes moved to the Olde English District about a decade ago, most of the area’s restaurants were corporate-owned. Since that time, the two have seen a trend toward more locally owned restaurants, several opened by the two chefs themselves, who now own Flipside Restaurant (Rock Hill), Flipside Café (Fort Mill), Salmeri’s Italian Kitchen (Fort Mill), FM Eatery (Fort Mill) and Flip Out Burger (Rock Hill, inside The Power House Food Hall). In addition, the couple owns Flipside Catering.

Amy perhaps got her culinary start shucking corn for dinner regularly on summer nights in Lockport, NY, near Buffalo—an area with plenty of farms and, of course, corn fields. So York County doesn’t feel too different from home. She’s proud that her restaurants work closely with area farmers for the freshest ingredients.

“When I was named a Chef Ambassador (for South Carolina in 2017), it gave me even more of an opportunity to find local farmers and build relationships with them. That was really beneficial for our restaurants,” Amy says.” It was also about the time that several other area restaurants began to rely heavily on local farmers.”

In 2020 and 2021, Amy says COVID took its toll on several quality restaurants that she was sad to see close. In the past three years, however, she has seen restaurants rebound with a new focus on being locally owned and using locally grown ingredients. “The business is really growing and thriving right now,” she says.

Finding time off to eat at other restaurants is a challenge, but when she does, she mentions The Improper Pig (Fort Mill), Konnichiwa (Fort Mill), Papa Doc’s Shore Club (Lake Wylie), Kounter (Rock Hill), Ay Papi Tacos & Tequila (Rock Hill) and Old Town Kitchen & Cocktails (Rock Hill) as some of her favorites. “We love York County, and there’s a thriving food scene here right now,” Amy says, adding that she sees that trend spreading to the rest of the Olde English District.

“It’s only going to continue to grow,” Amy says. One hope she has for the area is that the labor field will grow, too. “It’s a tough business,” she says, “But with the growing number of great local restaurants and, for instance, with Johnson & Wales’ College of Culinary Arts nearby in Charlotte, it’s a great area for those interested in restaurants to grow a career.”

Amy adds that in addition to restaurants, she’s seeing growth in breweries and taprooms, too. “It’s cool that those places are popping up but from a food perspective it’s great because those places often have food trucks onsite, and some of those food trucks become brick-and-mortar restaurants,” she says. They’re also great for foot traffic if they’re near local restaurants and for the combined food & drink tours offered in the area. “They’re fun places and they definitely help with exposure for restaurants,” she says of the burgeoning brewery businesses.

Amy sees the food and beverage industry in the area continuing to grow. “I think it will expand and we’ll see more and more diversity,” she says. “Everything is moving in a positive direction.”