Less than two years ago, Rob Bennett was on the hunt for his next big undertaking. After graduating from Green Mountain College in Vermont with a degree in facilities management, the native of Westchester, N.Y., took on a series of entrepreneurial ventures. Aside from working in management at a number of restaurants and delis over the years, 38-year-old Bennett and his wife also owned a demolition company and several Curves fitness centers for women. (Talk about diversification!) It was while working in Aspen, Colo., for a year that Bennett discovered a restaurant concept that was too innovative to resist. How Do You Roll (www.howdoyouroll.com) is a custom sushi shop with a casual atmosphere. It transforms what is usually a passive dining experience into an active one, letting customers build their own sushi rolls by choosing from an assortment of seaweed, rice, meats, veggies and sauces.
Creative Loafing: What led you to open How Do You Roll in Charlotte?
Rob Bennett: We had visited the lake region here for many years and we have some family that lives down here on Lake Wylie. So when we came across the [custom sushi] concept in February of last year, we couldn't think of a better city to bring it to. We came here and drove around for quite a bit to find a good spot. Ballantyne seemed like a great demographic to introduce it to the area, so we started building this summer and opened up at the end of the summer. Charlotte is a young, clean, health-conscious city, and they're very accepting to something new. Twenty years ago, I couldn't have opened up this shop down here and been well-accepted, [but] now I get thanked every day for what we've brought to the area.
What's your favorite item on the menu?
My favorite item would definitely be the Carolina roll. It's one of our top sellers, and it's something we came up with outside of the franchise, by ourselves. It has shrimp, crab, jalapeno, cucumber and cream cheese with white rice in a traditional seaweed wrap. It's topped with teriyaki, spicy mayo and sesame seeds. We're a little different, too, because we do a 10-piece roll. It's definitely a meal in itself. It's got a little bit of spicy to it and the two fishes go tremendously well together. We couldn't be happier with it, and they're actually going to introduce it on the national level soon.
What do you see for your restaurant's future?
We're going to have some additions to the menu, and we're creating some udon bowls, some ramen noodle bowls and dumplings, as well as expanding on the roll concept. The world is changing to the fast-style environment, and it really goes along with people's lifestyles today.