A popular Greenville-based restaurant group is under new ownership — but nothing is random about it.
The new owners of Larkin’s Restaurants are Chief Operating Officer Kristina Murphy and Chief Financial Officer Adam Hayes. Murphy was the longstanding executive vice president and Hayes was formerly an executive vice president. Ownership of the restaurant group was transferred by Mark and Larkin Hammond.
In the late 1990s, the Hammonds left the corporate world and opened a place of their own on the edge of Lake Lure, N.C. They called the restaurant Larkin’s on the Lake and went to work defining their brand of hospitality, according to the company history. As the restaurant took off, they started laying plans for what would grow into the Larkin’s Restaurant Group.
Grounded at the heart of Larkin’s Restaurants is the firm sense of family, the company says. The Hammonds sold their first restaurant to their long-time managing partners, Robin and Lewis Bentley, who continue to operate the space as The Lakehouse Restaurant. The Hammonds say they felt a sense of accomplishment in seeing their team succeed — and they have the same feeling about their latest transaction.
“They have been talking about it for a couple of years, and of course I was interested because I’ve been with them for so long,” Murphy said. “Larkin wanted to retire and spend more time with her dogs on the beach.”
In 2005, the Hammonds took a trip to Greenville and saw the potential in a revival underway downtown. Larkin Hammond walked into an old, dark steakhouse and had a vision of what it could become. From that, Larkin’s on the River was born.
Larkin’s on the River quickly defined fine dining in downtown Greenville. The space had several areas for large groups and the addition of Murphy to the Larkin’s family in 2007 helped open the doors to a new arm of the business, Larkin’s Catering and Events.
Although Murphy and Hayes have taken over the majority of ownership, Mark Hammond still has 10% interest in Larkin’s, Murphy said.
“Their main residence is in Florida, but they have a home in Easley, so we still communicate on ideas,” said Murphy. “They don’t have children, but Larkin’s was their baby and they have trusted us with that. With loyalty, hard work, and dedication, going through the highs and lows, and always trying to do better, it’s possible to get a restaurant group of your own someday. And here we are.”
Outgrowths from Larkin’s on the River — now Larkin’s Camperdown — include an upscale burger joint in downtown Greenville, Grill Marks. And in 2015, the entrepreneurs decided over a few glasses of prosecco to pay homage to Larkin’s Italian heritage and opened Limoncello, which has since turned into a neighborhood gathering spot with guests dining nightly around a fountain on a piazza.
“When I came in 2007, it was just Larkin’s on the River, and we were able to grow that in this area and gave life to that part of town, watching all the hotels and condos go up,” said Murphy. “When Grill Marks opened, we simultaneously grew the catering side of things and looked for more event space, growing slowly over time, and learning how to run all these concepts.”
So, what’s the first order of business for Murphy and Hayes after stepping into the new role?
“We are always looking to put our brands we have in other cities, looking at other real estate options in different cities to grow Grill Marks and Limoncello,” said Murphy. “We want to make sure our restaurants are great and consistent, with good service and food every day.”
Hayes said the important thing for them, and the community, is that they aren’t just random people taking over ownership of one of Greenville’s most well-known establishments.
“Nothing is changing,” said Hayes. “We continue to run them the same as we always have and always looking to improve.”l