Robert York has worn many hats over the years. He’s been a husband, a father, a salvage worker and restaurant owner.
While all of those roles have been important in defining who York is as a person there is one thing that allows him to share his soul…music.
York was born in Salisbury and has lived in Yadkin County all of his life. He went to school at Courtney High School where he graduated and went on to attend Mitchell College. After starting a family he had to abandon the college life and move into the world of work.
York went to work for Roadway Express for a few years which led him to his next job working for a salvaging business. While he loved his work he still knew that he wanted to do more. One day while riding around Yadkinville with a friend he learned where his next path in life would take him
‘I fell into the restaurant business,” York said. “I was riding around with my friend and he said that we should open a restaurant together. I always liked to cook but I never thought of running a restaurant. He talked me into it though.”
York said that he and his friend decided that there were no good barbecue options in Yadkinville at the time so that’s what they set out to do. York and his grandfather built what would become Hickory House and York’s first restaurant was off the ground.
“[The restaurant business] is a tough business,” York said. “I built it from the ground up and it’s really hard to find good help. You just have to learn as you go and as long as you try to keep good products and treat people right then you’ll have a certain amount of success.”
York said that as time passed he realized that he would have to branch out to other areas if he wanted to see more growth in a small county like Yadkin. He set his sights on a building for lease in East Bend which he eventually bought and turned into another barbecue restaurant.
“I have had five or six different restaurants over the years,” York said.
York said that while the restaurant business was difficult it was always rewarding to see satisfied customers when the day was done.
“I think it’s a service to people,” York said. “It gives you certain amount of satisfaction to have people come up to you and thank you for serving them a good meal.”
While the restaurant business was a passion for York, it pales in comparison to his love for music. York says that he started playing music 40 years ago. He was on the road with a musician as a sound engineer. Over time he decided that he didn’t want to be behind the scenes all the time and he started to learn to play himself.
“That was my hobby for a long time and eventually that became my work as well,” York said. “Once I got into music it was my release and it let me get away from the frustrations of my job.”
York learned to play bass guitar and found himself falling in with several different bands over the years. His musical hobby led him to play in many music halls, pubs and restaurants and also allowed him to meet some of his musical icons over the years as well, a framed photo of him with Charlie Daniels hangs on his living room wall.
“[Music is] a way to reach people and touch people to let them know how you feel,” York said. “It’s nice to see people enjoying themselves while you play. I feed off that, it’s a personal enjoyment that you get.”
York started his current band, Risky Bizzness, 20 years ago. The band plays regularly in Yadkin and surrounding counties and headlines the Yadkin Valley Harvest Festival every year.
“I play bass guitar and I sing some for Risky Bizzness,” York said. “I have had a lot of different musicians come through the band. My son even plays with me. He started playing drums at three and then started guitar at age 13.”
York said that his son, Dusty York, has a flourishing musical career and will often perform his solo act alongside the Risky Bizzness band. A pride fills his face when he talks about all his son has accomplished over the years and what he hopes to see happen for him in the future. It’s clear that the father and son share a passion for making music.
“Music is like a disease, you get it in your blood and you just can’t quit,” York said. “I feel like I could play forever until I just couldn’t play anymore.”
York said that he can’t imagine a life outside of Yadkin County. He feels that most people who’ve lived here all of their lives probably take advantage of the qualities the county has to offer.
“I don’t think people realize how good we have it living around here,” York said. “You look at all the trouble around us and the bad weather in other parts of the United States and people in other parts of the world starving and it makes me appreciate where I live. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been right now.”
York said that when he’s not performing with his band or spending time with his family he likes to sit on the front porch of his father’s old log home and watch the ducks and fishermen at his pond.
York said that what’s most important to him is that people realize how grateful he is for the years they allowed him to serve them at his restaurants.
“We appreciate those people who were loyal customers over the years,” York said. “We hope that they were happy with us and that they were always satisfied with what we did. My wife and I just want to thank our customers for helping us make a living for all of those years, you can’t have a successful business without great customers.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.