ROCKINGHAM — Through all the changes that have come to downtown Rockingham over the years, Hudson Brothers Deli has remained a constant.
Now in its 37th year, the restaurant, bar, music venue and host of meetings for businesses and community organizations was recognized for that consistency by the Rockingham Downtown Corporation Tuesday, winning its 2017 Featured Business Award.
“When we started out we were part of a big community downtown, almost every building had somebody in it and now over the years we’ve outlasted all the other people that started out in 1980,” said owner Rex Hudson. “It seems like we’ve gone through a lot of changes with the economy.”
He attributes the spot staying open to the commitment of his staff, several of which have worked there for more than 27 years.
“Our staff is one of the biggest things that’s kept us in business this long, Robin (Roberts) and Diane (Whitfield) and the girls in the back,” Hudson said. “We have seen a lot of people raise their children coming to the deli — and now they are bringing their children and that’s got to say something for the people who are running the business.”
Hudson said there has been a gradual transition from a place that people stop in after work for a drink to more of a “sitting-down-at-night-type place.” He said this was a response to people becoming “more protective of their driver’s licenses” these days than they were in the ‘80s, meaning more crowds that have designated drivers rather than a group of friends piling in for happy hour.
“We feel like we’re trying our best to keep people safe,” Hudson said. “We’ve evolved as the public has.”
As a result, Hudson Brothers’s menu has moved beyond sandwiches to include “pride foods,” steamed shrimp and other traditional dinner dishes.
Another thing Hudson Brothers is known for is its live music and karaoke nights. Robin Roberts, the general manager for 27 years, said the value of a local music scene is something she brought with her when she moved to Richmond County from Austin, Texas when she was 20 years old.
“When I came here I was used to the music scene and I started having a band once or twice a month in the ’90s and we’ve probably had a band every Friday night since 2000,” Roberts said. “I just like to keep the music scene going for people to have somewhere to go and something to do.”
She said that over the years it’s gotten bigger and bigger to where she constantly has people sending her CDs and reaching out over Facebook. Most nights, Roberts just likes to have an acoustic act play, but at least once a month she will book a full band. The most popular acts, she said, are the locals Ponder (now Ponder Project) and Mother Reign.
“Anytime they play it’s standing-room only,” she said.
Roberts goes all over North and South Carolina to find bands, but “there’s so much talent in Richmond County.”
“I try to keep it local as much as I can,” Roberts said. “It’s a big part of Hudson Brothers.”