In the heart of Hoke County lies the small but expanding town of Raeford. While historically not a tourist destination or entertainment hub, Raeford has long been known for its poultry production within House of Raeford Farms. But one area family has goals of making Raeford feel more like home to locals and visitors in need of quality crafted wine or delicious comfort food.
Steve and Kimberly Rulli, owners of Rockfish Creek Winery and Downtown are both Raeford locals who are veterans, wine enthusiasts, professional skydivers, and who also have a passion for community outreach.
The winery dream for the Rullis began on their one-year anniversary in 2017 while they were on a trip in the Outer Banks. Finding themselves at OBX winery in Kill Devil Hills, they became so fascinated with the product and the process, they eventually ended up interning there, learning how to create their own wine.
The Rullis opened Rockfish Creek Winery in Raeford in 2018. The now award-winning winery offers wine making classes and event spacing aside from serving their expertly crafted wine. The name for the winery was chosen because the water used to create their wine comes directly from Rockfish Creek.
“We triple filter our water from there [Rockfish Creek] but it’s just wonderful quality water,” Kimberly Rulli said.
The Rullis’ second project, Downtown by Rockfish Creek Winery in downtown Raeford, opened in October of this year.
“We’ve had overwhelming support from both friends and the community,” Kimberly Rulli said. “People have wanted a place downtown for so long, they come in and tell us we needed this in this town so bad.”
The restaurant features original photographs from the 1970’s of people and events in Raeford, bringing back memories for many customers who come in to eat.
“We wanted something both classy and affordable, something that would bring people from different walks of life, and make everybody feel at home,” Kim Rulli said.
Megan Nowack has been working for the winery since June but began serving at the restaurant when they opened.
“The family aspect is in everything, seriously from day one, even when I wasn’t working yet, I felt instantly a part of a family,” Megan Nowak said.
Moore County, a neighboring county to Hoke, was recently affected by an assault on two electric substations, causing a majority of the county to completely lose power. Schools around the county shut down for close to a week and many families were left with no choice but to stay in shelters organized by Red-Cross. The Rullis found themselves searching for any way to help the individuals impacted by the power outage.
“It really pulled on our heart strings, I am not an emotional person but this made me emotional,” Kimberly Rulli said.
Downtown provided and posted a full menu of items available for anyone impacted by the power outage, no purchase or proof of residency required.
“A significant number of people came in and not took advantage of us but allowed themselves to take advantage of the opportunity to be cared for by the community,” Kimberly Rulli said.
The menu available for these individuals was not lacking — it included their famous fried pickle chips, hot dogs, wings, kids nuggets, and much more.
“We wanted everyone to feel loved, we offered all of the good items, all of our favorites,” Kimberly Rulli said.
Raeford N.C. is adored especially by locals, but with the help of the Rulli family and others, the town is beginning to gain attention from far and wide.