'We accidentally fell into sushi' Asheboro's newest restaurant Gather is on a roll

·5 min read

From Southern California to North Carolina, Jasmine Mohamed is used to eating different cultural foods. However, when she moved across the country, she accidentally stumbled into adding sushi to the menu.

Mohamed had the support of her family on this new journey of sushi in Asheboro. Her restaurant, Gather is located at 746 Martin Luther King Jr Road. It was a goal she had in mind after seeing a need from residents.

If you’re not a subscriber, please support local journalism and consider a subscription.

When she first came to the state, they moved to Denton and opened a restaurant with her business partner Shawna Farmer. Mohamed bought a 150-year-old farmhouse, fixed it up, and tried to make it a home. She soon realized she was different because of what she offered, but the sushi brought people over.

The owner came to America right after the Vietnam War as a refugee. Her fiancé Woody Kroll is African American, so their children are biracial. Mohamed believes their odd combination is what makes their cuisines whether sushi or soul food, stand out.

"We found that during that time, about 60 to 70 percent of our customers came from Asheboro," Mohamed said. "So last year, we closed up the Denton location and in November we opened our Salisbury location. We were supposed to open here first but it took more time."

Bringing sushi to Asheboro

Mohamed and Kroll were aiming for a space in Downtown Asheboro but there were no restaurant opportunities there at the time. But she remembers seeing a building two minutes from downtown which she calls a "little beauty."

Despite being beautiful, there was still a process Mohamed had to follow to ensure a successful sushi restaurant in town.

Mohamed bought the building, rezoned and met all health department regulations. She said she heard rumors that an ordinance did not allow fish in Randolph County. That puzzled her so she quickly reached out to local officials for guidance.

"I was like it doesn't make sense, so I called the health department before I put a bid on the building," Mohamed said. "They said they follow the same guidelines as the rest of the state, and I knew we were good to go."

An accidental sushi success

When they opened their restaurant in Denton, it was initially supposed to be a coffee trailer but it did not work with winter and summer weather. The new building they found had a dining room and kitchen, sparking the thought to make food.

They started making dishes that they liked from California such as gumbo and also took suggestions. Then, if they had the ingredients, they made the food.

"My sister's husband is a sushi chef. So one day, he said I'll do sushi for you for one weekend. They live in California so it was kind of a one-day thing," Kroll said. "He thought it was a little town and not many people would show up, but apparently, people were talking about it with a 100-mile radius."

They had people from Greensboro showing up and at that point, they had been serving food for less than one month. So, when Mohamed posted that she was doing sushi over the weekend as a special, the parking lot was full when they opened at 11 a.m. She said people were circling around in Denton to get the sushi.

Once the rush became too much, her brother-in-law said he would leave before dinner because he was not feeling well. The couple panicked because on Saturday there was a two-hour wait but only one chef and tables of people ordering two or three sushi rolls each.

Mohamed thought about how to fix the situation and ultimately asked her brother-in-law to teach her how to make a sushi roll, even though she has never rolled one in her life.

"He asked me if I was serious and I told him to show me. So he left and Woody went out there to calm everyone down because I was new and slow," Mohamed said. "But we finished dinner service. I did everything and nobody complained. Everything was good."

With a big smile on her face, Mohamed said she continued to teach herself the art of sushi by watching YouTube videos. Then they added sushi to the menu due to high demand.

"I'll put a disclaimer up like if it's not wrapped tight or wrapped right, it tastes good. I also use the freshest ingredients. I did learn from a really good and experienced sushi chef," Mohamed said.

Challenges along the route to Asheboro

The owner said with COVID she gets the ingredients wherever it is available, whether Cisco or US Foods. She also goes to Raleigh and Charlotte depending on what they have. They have been out of tuna, chicken and for six months they were out of masago. Sometimes they had to go to the Asian market where food is more expensive.

They also did not time the opening right because they started the same day the state shut down. So they pivoted to selling coffee out of their door window in Denton. When June hit, they could open their doors but only at 10% capacity.

Read more: EntreGROW: Grant aims to help Randolph, Davidson, Davie counties' small businesses increase revenue

The couple opened Gather to the Randolph County public on Thursday, Jan. 20. Mohamed said the restaurant was packed and she is ready to build a steady customer base as she has in Denton.

Petruce Jean-Charles is a Government Watchdog Reporter. They are interested in what's going on in the community and are open to tips on people, businesses and issues. Contact Petruce at pjeancharles@gannett.com and follow @PetruceKetsia on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on The Courier-Tribune: Owners bring sushi to Asheboro, residents excited for new food options