BILL KIRBY JR. November 2021

Where the Parkton aviation boys gather for camaraderie, barbecue and country-style cookin’

When it comes to good conversation with your pals, and good food, John Wilson is your go-to guy.

He’s a pilot and enjoys talking aviation with his buddies of the Parkton Aviation Group, or as they like to call it, the Parkton Air Force. And when finding a delight for your palate, John Wilson can find the perfect place.

The perfect place for these flight aficionados is Southern Coals Country Style Kitchen, where you’ll find owner Jason Hairr and his staff serving everything from smoked barbecue to barbecued chicken to smoked brisket, a rack of ribs and pork chops. And don’t forget the sides to include the mac and cheese, the Southern green beans, the fried okra, baked beans, potato salad, collards and broccoli salad.

Don’t forget the banana pudding, either.

“A friend told me about it about two years ago,” says Wilson, who was looking for a place where his aviation buddies could gather on Fridays for lunch after Bruce & Mickey’s closed. “He said it was just good barbecue. I went up there and tried it. I liked it because the restaurant was locally owned, and it was a small-town restaurant.”

Jay Wyatt, Kenny Hardin, Kevin Moore, Jimmy Hall, Vic Carnevale, Dr. Dickson Schaefer, David Davenport and Jimmy Jones were among the guys joining Wilson for lunch, and apparently, they gave Wilson a thumbs up on where they would be meeting every Friday at noon at the restaurant in the shopping center at 3319 C Raeford Road. Also in the group are Tom Prewitt and Tad Prewitt.

“Everybody kept coming back,” Wilson says. “It’s just all good. There’s the pulled barbecue, the pulled chicken and the brisket. The macaroni and cheese is the best, and the broccoli salad is really good. The collards are good, too, but not as good as my mama’s. But the cornbread is great, and they’ve got the banana pudding for dessert.”

And if the banana pudding doesn’t strike your fancy, Wilson says, you can always head next door to Burney’s Sweets & More, the bakery also owned by Jason Hairr, and where you’ll find doughnuts, croissants, cupcakes, cakes and pies.

“Being next door to the bakery doesn’t hurt,” Wilson says.

Always Back to Aviation

This is an autumn Friday around noon as the Parkton Air Force has gathered, and first in the ordering line is Jay Wyatt, who’s touting the pulled barbecue and barbecued chicken, and hawking the fried okra, too.

Not long after, and Wyatt is eyeing his plate.

“What we do is have lunch on Fridays,” Wilson says, “to decide where we’re going to fly to have lunch on Saturday.”

A Saturday lunch could be anywhere from Stanton’s in Gibson, South Carolina or Melvin’s in Elizabethtown.

“We used to go the Pik N Pig in Carthage,” Wilson says, “until it burned down.”

This is a happy-go-lucky group of pilots, and the banana pudding still is to come.

“We talk about everything,” says Jimmy Jones, from aircrafts to politics to anything on anybody’s mind.

Schaefer is the “jokester” in the group, Wilson says, and Wyatt isn’t far behind.

“We’ve told the same jokes so many times, we have ‘em numbered,” Wilson says. “We just call out a number now. But aviation is what got us all together. Some of us have been together for 30 years. We talk about everything from the newest electronics in aviation to the cost of fuel.”

And where they’ll have lunch on Saturday.

But the conversation always turns back to aviation – Jay Wyatt’s or Vic Carnevale’s American Champion Citabria or Jimmy Hall’s Piper Super Club or Dickson Schaefer’s Cessna 182 or John Wilson’s 1947 model Piper Super Cruiser.

“We talk about each other,” David Davenport says. “And we are big barbecue people.”

Vic Carnevale is a retired US Airways pilot.

“Oh, my gosh, you couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys,” Carnevale says. “We all have a common interest in aviation. Most of our fathers were pilots and we just followed them. I like the brisket and always order the fried okra. Jason is a super guy and has been real good to us. We just have a good time.”

Kevin Moore, who is Carnevale’s son-in-law, is retired military and a Black Hawk helicopter pilot instructor at Simmons Army Air Field on Fort Bragg after his service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s just good support for one another,” Moore says.

Schaefer is an orthopedic surgeon with a penchant for flight and the fried okra at Southern Coals Country Style Kitchen.

And something else.

“Don’t tell them, but I most enjoy the camaraderie and the shared enjoyment of aviation,” Schaefer says. “It is a wonderful group of men that takes care of each other. I have learned a ton from them.”

‘Oh, It’s A Great Time’

Jason Hairr may not know much about aviation, but he knows food, business and how to appreciate customers.

“He’s the best guy you could meet,” Jay Wyatt says. “He’s generous and cares about others.”

Helping feed out-of-school schoolchildren during the COVID-19 health crisis is just one example of Hairr’s caring ways.

Hairr, 43, started Southern Coals as a food truck in 2015, opened the Burney’s Sweets & More bakery in the Dail Shopping Center in 2016 and Southern Coals Country Style Kitchen in 2018.

Operations manager for Chick-fil-A owner Tommy Arnold for 16 years, Hairr gives credit to Joe and Trina Riddle for much of his success at Southern Coals, and to Chip and Jana Humphrey at the bakery.

“Joe has been an amazing landlord and friend to me since Day One,” Hairr says. “He has given me an opportunity I don’t feel I would have gotten anywhere else. When I opened the restaurant, the first thing he did was come in and buy $1,000 worth of gift

cards and gave them out. He said, “For me to be successful, you need to be successful. And I would not have been as successful had it not been for Chick-fil-A and Tommy Arnold.”

As for the Parkton Aviation pilots, they are not just Jason Hairr’s customers each Friday, but they have become friends.

“Oh, it’s a great time,” he says. “A great group of guys. There’s lots of knowledge in those guys. They’ve been in Fayetteville a long time, and I enjoy sitting and hearing their stories and I try to absorb as much as I can from them.”

Among their favorite items on the menu, Hairr says, is the smoked sausage, pork chops and brisket. “And they never turn down a dessert,” he says. “Or pound cake.”

Jason Hairr says, yes for sure, they are more than customers on any given Friday. “I could call any one of them and ask for the shirt off their back, and they would call another one and give the shirt off of their back, too,” Hairr says. “I feel like you become the type of people you hang out with, and they want me to be successful.”

Epilogue

Southern Coals Country Style Kitchen is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday, and from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“One of the things l like about my job and my place is that I can give somebody an opportunity,” Hairr says, like Stefon Perez, the austistic server, who is a Johnny-On-The Spot waiter like none other. “You cannot outgive God, and God has blessed me more than I deserve.”

It’s Southern Coals Country Style Kitchen, with the pulled pork barbecue, the barbecued chicken, the brisket, and don’t forget the fried okra aplenty, the potato salad, the broccoli salad the collard greens, and where the “Parkton Air Force” boys hang out every Friday come rain or shine.

And don’t forget the banana pudding.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961. Read more of his columns in our weekly Insider newsletter.