This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous family restaurant Pisgah Fish Camp.
The facility, founded, owned and operated by the Hawkins family since 1968, will celebrate the milestone throughout this year, according to a press release.
A special anniversary celebration for area residents and friends is being planned for the end of September.
Pisgah Fish Camp is co-owned by Dana Hawkins, along with her sister, Jeanne Hawkins. All four Hawkins siblings, including brothers Mike and Chris, have a history of involvement with the restaurant.
Dana attributes the restaurant’s success to a warm community, great food, a loyal clientele and a family philosophy of working together to make things happen.
“We’ve had good times and bad times over the years, but we’re blessed by our many customers,” he said. “We are honored and overwhelmed by their continued support and patronage.”
For Mike Hawkins, Fish Camp is more than a restaurant.
“It’s a big part of life for generations of people here,” he said. “We love it, and we take that compliment very seriously.”
Founded by the late family patriarch Dan Hawkins in 1968, Pisgah Fish Camp was founded on the idea of providing delicious food in a casual, friendly environment to locals and travelers alike.
Families celebrated milestones over platters of fried plaice. Visitors have gone off the beaten path to fortify themselves with silent puppies and sweet tea after a day in the forest.
The kitchen prepared take-out orders of 50 cheeseburgers and delivered them in boxes to the gates of the former Ecusta paper mill to employees during the lunch break. And each Labor Day, the Fish Camp would provide the prize for the Ecusta Family Picnic at the local Union Hall, serving up to 2,000 meals in a single day.
The family spirit was put to the test in 1977, when the restaurant caught fire late at night. The place was devastated, but the community rallied.
Everyone participated and Pisgah Fish Camp was able to reopen in just 13 days.
Brevard has grown and changed over the years.
More and more tourists and campers are walking there every summer.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the family opened five new Pisgah Fish Camp locations throughout the region, and each of the Hawkins’ children operated one or more of the restaurants.
The Hawkins family’s plans were ambitious, guided by Dan’s pragmatic optimism.
“Dad had a vision,” Dana said. “He was never one to sit down and figure out why something wouldn’t work. He believed in making things happen.”
For Jeanne, the greatest gift her father gave her was the example of his work ethic.
“Restoration is not for the faint-hearted, and dad worked tirelessly on it,” she said. “It was certainly good preparation for the sacrifices needed to be here 50 years later.”
In 1991, Dan set his sights on an old body shop just across the street. Pisgah Fish camp closed in early October, just days after peak leaf season, and the Hawkins family was once again built from little more than a shell.
Most of the workers were friends, family members and restaurant employees. Dana was hauling wood and hammering nails. The cooks helped the carpenters. Throughout the winter, the new space took shape. The Fish Camp moved from its original location to its current location in early May and on Mother’s Day in 1992 served nearly 800 people, the largest crowd in the restaurant’s history. .
In its 50th year, Pisgah Fish Camp still serves up some of the most scrumptious fish sandwiches, succulent fried chicken and crispy onion rings in a crowded dining hall that still buzzes with happy families, sun-kissed travelers, friendly old and new generations of hungry customers eager to sample salmon, mountain trout and the ever-popular pick-three seafood platter.
Dana sources much of its menu locally, creating a secondary of interconnected family businesses throughout the region.
“When you open a restaurant, everyone comes to eat with you. We always look forward to serving anyone who comes to our door,” Dana said.
The next two generations are preparing to carry on the Hawkins family legacy so that many more visitors can enjoy the hospitality of Pisgah Fish Camp. The family is both thoughtful and optimistic about the future.
“There couldn’t have been a better place to grow up as a kid and then be in a company where we are surrounded by the nicest people on earth every day,” Jeanne said. “It has been my greatest joy both professionally and personally.”
“On average, our customers get about three hushpuppies per plate, and we’ve served about three million people over the years. That’s nine million hush-puppies,” Dana said, smiling, her eyes sparkling. “I think we’ll serve a few more.”