By Eric Barton
Photography by Candace West
City & Shore Magazine
Luke Moorman felt proud of himself when he landed a job as a stockbroker in New York City right out of college. He called a broker friend he knew back home to share the news.
“Look, I know you won’t listen to me now,” the broker said, “but you should go in today and quit. Walk away. That job is not you.”
Moorman had grown up in Fort Lauderdale in a family known for the jewelry store it runs on Las Olas, Carroll’s Jewelers. Moorman has a careful, deliberate way of speaking, warm and more than a little Southern, the kind of neighbor who’s going to have the tool you need to borrow. There he was just the same, doing cold-calls in a New York City boiler room.
But he had promised himself when he left for college in Maryland that he’d take some new direction for his family, walking away from the store that his great-grandfather founded in 1937 and expanded to Fort Lauderdale in 1961. So he kept trading, working in New York and then Coral Gables, even as the market in the late ’90s and early this century took rollercoaster rides.
He was back home for a visit in Fort Lauderdale one day when he and his four brothers started talking about the family business. “We looked around and agreed: one of us should be involved in the family business. Suddenly everyone was pointing at me.”
Moorman started part-time at the jewelry store in 2001, becoming part of a fourth generation of his family to work there. He learned quickly the pros and cons of spending all day with family, people who will always tell you exactly what they think. “To work with family,” he says, “you have to have an incredible level of forgiveness and patience.”
The place specializes in custom pieces, which Moorman defines as when someone wants an existing piece of jewelry changed to make it unique, and bespoke items, something created from scratch, a piece of art that’s never existed before. Moorman says he thrived on the creativity of it, going from the stressful life of cold-calling to working face-to-face with people who needed him to turn ideas into something they could wear. Moorman says, “It’s an amazing thing to create something for people, especially when it’s something they’re going to wear their whole life and then pass down through their family.”
His brother John joined him and their parents at the jewelry shop in 2006. He and his brothers are always dreaming about side businesses to pick up. They came across a vague listing for an unnamed barbecue restaurant, and they could just tell from the details that it was the one they grew up visiting. Moorman called the Georgia Pig that morning and got the owner, Wayne Anderson, on the phone. Anderson was the second owner of a restaurant that opened in 1953 on State Road 441, now just north of 595.
“Mr. Anderson, do you remember me?” Moorman said. As a kid, Moorman and his brothers would come in regularly to the Georgia Pig for breakfast and pulled-pork sandwiches, having grown up around the corner in Melrose Park. He was on the swim team with Anderson’s daughter, Jenny, and they went to homecoming together as friends.
“I have to ask,” Moorman said, “is the Georgia Pig for sale?”
“No,” Anderson said. Even though the place had been listed with a broker, it wasn’t going to be easy for him to let go of a place where he had worked the pit for 43 years.
It took Moorman months to convince Anderson to sell the place. Getting a loan also proved a challenge. Banks kept telling Moorman that long-running restaurants rarely last a year after new owners come in.
When Moorman and his brother Robert Moorman III took over in 2014, they swore to keep the staff on and to modify little. They left the menu unchanged and the place still feeling like it did when they walked in as kids.
News coverage of the purchase brought in lots of customers in those first few months, and Moorman wondered if they had taken on too much. “I prayed at one point early on for business to actually slow down,” he recalls. “You have to understand that when the dishwasher calls in sick, I’m the dishwasher.”
On a recent weekday morning, Moorman begins his day at the jewelry shop, a pink golf shirt to match Carroll’s color scheme. Midmorning, Moorman ducks in the back to replace the shirt with a baby-blue polo with the Georgia Pig’s logo, a bumble bee and a fiddle-playing swine. He adds a camo Georgia Pig cap when he gets behind the wheel of his mother’s Dodge pickup.
On the drive out to the restaurant, he calls in advance to make sure he can still order breakfast; he might be arriving a few minutes after the 10:30 cutoff, and even the owner can’t bend some rules.
Walking in, Moorman calls many of the midmorning customers by name. The day’s special is in chalk: country-fried steak, green beans and mashed potatoes, cock-a-doodle noodle soup to start. He fetches breakfast himself and covers a table by the window with homey plates of fried eggs, grits, fluffy biscuits, sausage gravy and bacon cooked in the open pit.
Five years into owning a business everyone told him would be closed in a year, Moorman says he’s needed less at the restaurant. He’s working on new projects: bottling the sauce, outfitting a food truck and growing a new catering service. He recently did a Little League event for a thousand people, a massive project for a restaurant that might serve that many customers over the course of a busy weekend.
He and his brothers are also always thinking about what else to take on – they own a shopping center off Broward Boulevard, for instance, that’s a work in progress. Moorman also serves as president of the Las Olas Association and on the board for the Winterfest Boat Parade – two roles that take up lots of his time.
There will, undoubtedly, be other projects. “If I had more money, if I had more time,” Moorman says, “I’d most likely invest it in another headache.”
915 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-463-3711, carrollsjewelers.com
1285 S. State Road 7, Fort Lauderdale, 954-587-4420, georgiapig.com