Food & DrinkFood Features

Next Generation Steps Up to Take Brooks’ Sandwich House into New Era

Lauren Brooks Thorp hands food out the window to a customer
Scott Brooks’ niece, Lauren Brooks Thorp, works the lunch shift at Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

It’s been almost three years since tragedy upended the lives of those around Scott Brooks, who was shot and killed in a robbery while opening Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa on Dec. 9, 2019. 

That day still haunts Lauren Brooks Thorp, whose father, David, is Scott’s twin brother. 

“Every day when I open up the door at work, it just kind of hits me, just unlocking that door and thinking about how fast Scott tried to unlock that door or just trying to get the alarm to go off at least, which he did,” Thorp said.

Thorp’s grandfather, Calvin Teal “CT” Brooks, opened Brooks’ Sandwich House in 1973, serving breakfast and lunch to workers from the Highland Manufacturing Co. Mill across the street, now the Highland Mill Lofts. The popular NoDa sandwich shop has long been famous for its “All the Way” burgers, made with mustard, onions and housemade chili.

Calvin passed away at 90 years old in August 2017, and his sons David and Scott had been running Brooks’ since, even bringing in a third generation of family members — Thorp and her brother, Teal — to learn the business.

Queen City Nerve was at Brooks’ the day after Scott’s death, when more than 200 people gathered outside the restaurant for a candlelight vigil to pay their respects to the family. At the time, CMPD officials were calling on the community for help in identifying the two male suspects involved in the shooting.

Police have since charged Terry Connor Jr. and Steven Staples with Scott’s murder. In July 2022, they both pleaded not guilty and will take the case to trial. However, due to the ongoing backlog in homicide cases, it could be as many as six years before the case is heard.

Thorp said it’s upsetting that her family will have to relive the tragedy so many years later.

“You’re always hurt when you think about it and the fact that I have to go to court and watch this happen in six years, it’s just a little wild,” she said.

Before his death, Scott had expressed his desire to keep Brooks’ running past his and David’s respective retirements, despite the many offers they had already seen to buy them out and the rapid development occurring around them. However, Thorp said the shooting left her family so heartbroken they considered closing the spot for good.

It was the overwhelming outpouring of community support at Scott’s vigil that inspired the family to keep the eatery open. Since then, Thorp and her brother have taken on more of the day-to-day responsibilities at Brooks’ including prepping food and working the grill and walk-up window.

“We’re gonna carry on his legacy, and my grandpa’s and my dad’s,” she said. “Me and my brother are third-generation and I just want to keep it going as long as I can. I’m 27 and I got a 50-year-old restaurant.”

Thorp admits that life has been noticeably different since her uncle passed and though the family is healing, it still stings whenever customers ask about “the other twin.” Thorp’s dad David has also taken a step back from the restaurant — mostly picking up supplies, making the spice for the homemade chili and hanging out up front during lunch hours (Brooks’ is only open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and closed weekends).

Hungry customers stand in line outside a small red building waiting to place their orders
Customers line up to place their lunchtime orders at Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

In the three years since her uncle’s death, Thorp said the community’s love for Brooks’ never wavered and the restaurant has been busier than ever.

“The support we’ve been getting from NoDa and all over Charlotte, it’s been so crazy. It’s been such a blessing to have all these people just be behind us,” she said. “We’ve been so busy. It’s been ridiculous. We’ve been having to take the phone off the hook just because we can’t keep up with it. And I’m short-staffed, so it’s a lot.”

Brooks’ is even getting a glimpse of the spotlight. In August, Saturday Night Live’s comedy group Please Don’t Destroy filmed a skit outside the restaurant. It was the same trio — composed of actors Ben Marshall, John Higgins and Martin Herlihy — that had already been in the NoDa area throughout the summer filming a movie.

Brooks’ holds nearly 50 years of memories and traditions, but with the next generation now at the helm, the restaurant can step into a new era. Thorp said she has several ideas for taking Brooks’ into the future, including making it more of a local hangout by keeping it open later and on the weekends and adding local beer, yard games and swings. 

She sees the property’s potential to play host to more than just her family’s famous hamburger joint but also events like drive-in movies or a pop-up roller rink.

“There’s so much room over there. Even if I build a parking deck or something — that’s a lot of money — but even if I do that, Brooks’ will always still be there,” Thorp said. “I’m never gonna get rid of the little building. I love the little building.”

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