RALEIGH, N.C.—The N.C. Pork Council (NCPC) has announced that it will be closing its popular Pork Chop Shop (PCS) after the upcoming N.C. State Fair, although the pork industry plans to continue its strong commitment to the fair.
“In preparation for the 2014 fair, we will shift emphasis from what has been a wonderfully successful pork products restaurant to developing a new form of interaction with fair attendees,” said Deborah Johnson, NCPC chief executive officer.
She added, “The state’s pork industry has had a long and strong commitment to the State Fair and that will continue, but with a different emphasis that we will develop during 2014.”
According to the NCPC, the PCS has been an unqualified success in its mission to serve a hefty menu of pork products to thousands of people each year. Over its 25 years, the shop expanded in size, relied on up to 210 volunteers per year and served chopped barbecue, pork loin sandwiches and hot dogs to as many as 16,000 people each fall.
Johnson explained, “Now times have changed. We have around 46,000 North Carolinians employed in the pork industry, we are the No. 2 pork-producing state in the nation and our products are consumed all over the world. North Carolinians know us well and we have achieved our goal of putting what was called the “other white meat” in front of consumers at the State Fair.”
Johnson is proud that the shop had a loyal following. As will be the case on October 17 when this year’s fair opens, many families planned their days at the fair around lunch or dinner at the PCS.
NCPC Director of Communications & Marketing Ann Edmondson said, “The final appearance of the Pork Chop Shop at the fair will be a time of celebration. We expect to have our best year ever and we look forward to thanking our loyal customers. It has been a great run.”
A New York Times (NYT) reporter was once among the estimated 320,000 patrons who visited the shop over the years. The NYT reported, “Of the several states that claim to be America’s barbecue capital, North Carolina is the most convincing. Have doubts? Go to the (N.C. State) fair’s pork chop shop and have a plate of smoke-laced pork loin with a side of hush puppies. End of debate.”
While coincidental with the decision to shut down the shop, longtime chef Rick Garrett had also decided to hang up his PCS apron. Edmondson said, “Rick was with us for almost a decade and has been a fabulous chef. It’s fitting that he and the shop retire together.”
She added, “We hope to see all of our old friends next month at the fair, including many of the people who work in our industry across the state.”