Customer Testimonial

Café Rule and Wine Bar

90 Businesses and Counting


Local entrepreneurs share tips for running an exceptional business.

When it comes to running a family business, the father-son team of Robert Lackey, Sr., and Robb Lackey, Jr., know how to take one and make it extraordinary. Hickory natives, they’ve had their hand in nearly 90 businesses, most recently Café Rule and Wine Bar, a local establishment that provides a high-end dining experience. Over the years, they’ve picked up some valuable life and business skills, learned the art of branding, when to go to market, what to include in a business plan, how to build a good team, and the importance of research and partnership—especially in regard to financing.

Business successes

The Lackeys are no stranger to the business success story. From water and air filtration to hospitality, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Many people who want to start their own business or launch a new product look to this team for guidance. Whatever the platform, whatever the industry, they demonstrate a business acumen strengthened through years of experience and a heart for serving customers, employees and community.

Money is the constant

Running a business is difficult enough. You want a partner who can help address your financial needs, not create additional obstacles and problems. That’s why about 15 years ago, the entrepreneurs turned to Peoples Bank for financing on a mixed-use property. Since then, the bank has been their partner in numerous other opportunities including Café Rule and Wine Bar. Having that relationship in place has been instrumental to their success, say the Lackeys, especially as their business focus has turned more local.
“I get inquiries all the time about people wanting to start a business, or what I think about this business or this product or how would I go about going to market or building a business plan,” Robb Lackey, Jr., says. “And in all of those scenarios, money is the constant. I’m always trying to push people to go to Peoples Bank because they can be trusted. If they can help you, they are going to let you know. If they can’t, they are going to let you know. So you don’t spend time chasing a dead horse, so to speak. You can do your work and move on.”

Sell to the same people

On the retail side, it became more about selling different product lines to the same customer base. Brands became relevant. Their people and team became relevant. They were in the same lobby, in the same stores, in the same doors. “You may be selling a different product, but the process is very similar,” said Robert Lackey, Sr. “Do what you do and do it well in the same environment over and over again was our model. It was our impetus in getting further and further in diversification within retail.”

Embrace challenges

Hardship creates opportunities. Prior to COVID-19, the duo’s biggest challenge was finding the right employees and keeping them. Now, especially within the hospitality industry, it’s having to create a new normal, while continually adjusting models and price points, and not knowing where things are headed. In some business platforms, the pandemic has been an opportunity to grow, especially for those companies offering products that are built around safety and protection, and cleaner, healthier living.

Ask experts

You can learn a lot from the people who have come before you or who have guided others on similar journeys. That’s why the Lackeys turn to Peoples Bank. Over the years, they’ve gone to them for guidance on issues such as real estate, pricing, positioning, profitability, meeting goals, and the path most beneficial and sustainable for their businesses.  
“We had multiple conversations over a couple-year time frame as we were developing this product for the market,” Robert Lackey, Sr., said. “That was very critical. Obviously, they touch a lot of different business deals, and different markets and arrangements and partnership structures. I’ve come to rely on their experience and expertise and what they’ve seen work and not work.”

Love what you do

The Café Rule and Wine Bar developed from their extensive travels and out-of-town business trips entertaining clients, brand partners and suppliers. The discussions always turned to where they would stay and where they would eat.
“Those things kept us going,” Robb Lackey, Jr., said. “We always had a passion for food, wine, entertaining. There wasn’t much here locally. We figured we could build something that was high end, that showed well, and created a good experience overall. We just had a love for food. It started becoming more and more relevant. Investments became bigger and bigger. We’ve turned that now into a pretty nice hospitality division.”

Community support

With a mantra of innovation, excellence and integrity, the Lackeys and their team strive to be the best at what they do and to be honorable above all. It shows in the way they treat people within and outside their organization. Peoples Bank is helping the Lackey family build a 96-acre park, which is being donated to the city of Hickory in honor of Robb’s mother. He recalls growing up in a community that supported each other, that made everyone feel like they belonged. A community that was accessible and approachable.
“Those things are really what made me love Hickory, made me come back to Hickory and invest in Hickory the way I have and my family has over the years and continues to do so.”