Cuzo's Take-Out & Grill owner Marcus Herring, left, adds chili to a hot dog while preparing lunch orders Wednesday with Kenwin Alleyne at the restaurant on East Raleigh Boulevard.
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Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Cuzo's Take-Out & Grill owner Marcus Herring, left, adds chili to a hot dog while preparing lunch orders Wednesday with Kenwin Alleyne at the restaurant on East Raleigh Boulevard.

Native returns home, reopens restaurant

By COREY DAVIS

Staff Writer

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A former take-out restaurant has returned to Rocky Mount.

Marcus Herring reopened Cuzo’s Take-Out & Grill on Aug. 1 at the corner of East Raleigh Boulevard and Stokes Street. Herring’s Cuzo’s again serves non-pork menu items such as popular turkey burgers and beef hot dogs. Herring ran Cuzo’s from 2008 to 2010 at 1450 West Thomas St. However, Herring closed the business in 2011 and moved to Atlanta.

“I really left at a place where things were going well,” Herring said. “I just felt burnt out, tired and wanted a change of pace.”

However, the move didn’t go as expected for Herring. After three years of living in Atlanta, Herring returned to Rocky Mount earlier this year.

“When I was down there, I was working several hard jobs and I lost my wife, home and cars,” Herring said. “My financial situation wasn’t holding up in Atlanta. It was a life-changing experience, and I had to lose everything to see what I had. Before, I took things for granted – but I’m back home where I’m needed.”

Local businessman Jimmy Mousa gave Herring the opportunity to re-establish Cuzo’s in the area. Mousa said he initially opened another restaurant at the current Cuzo’s location, but things weren’t working out after spending $120,000 for renovations and repairs to the small building beside a convenience store.

He heard people in the community talking about Herring being back in the area. Mousa said people endorsed Herring’s cooking talents and his first success running Cuzo’s.

Mousa went on a hunt to locate 
Herring and wanted to hire him as a chef. But Mousa had no success finding him for almost three weeks.

Nonetheless, in a random meeting set up by Herring’s sister, who knew Mousa was looking to talk with Herring, the two men finally crossed paths and talked business one afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Sunset Avenue. Mousa was convinced from the meeting with Herring to allow him to run the take-out spot and bring the name Cuzo’s back to the area.

“When he put his flyer on the table, I said ‘You are the person that I’ve been looking hard to find,’” Mousa said. “It was a surprise, and he told his story of his first restaurant. He was known all around Rocky Mount, and I told him what I was looking to do. He came on board and has done an excellent job. He is someone with good character and does what he said he is going to do. This is our first business together, but this won’t be the last business between me and him.”

Herring said Cuzo’s will again be as active in the community as before. During his first time around, Herring was known for teaming up with some local businesses to serve free dinner events for less fortunate residents during the holiday seasons. Like before, Herring’s long- term goal is to grow the business and have franchises in other locations, such as Raleigh.

He also understands it’s important for him to be a role model for others to follow. Herring attended Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools until he dropped out at Rocky Mount High School when he was 17. But Herring later went back to school and received his General Equivalency Diploma and began working soon after.

“I’m from the projects or the ’hood, which a lot of them are from,” Herring said. “I don’t know the children, but I know the mothers – and it is sad when you see these gangs and people killing their own cousins. There aren’t too many businesses on Rocky Mount’s Edgecombe County side, which is disappointing. I want to show them that it can be done, and you don’t have to go out here and shoot and kill to try to make a name for yourself.”