Sometimes the name says it all—Books-a-Million sells books; Burger King, burgers; and Pizza Hut—well, you get the point. But sometimes, a name can say so much more. Two Brothers Jerky, for example. Eddie Wales and his younger brother, Paul Brock, founded and run the company that sells all-natural beef jerky throughout the Carolinas. The familial bond that unites them is a little different than most, though; until eight years ago, neither knew the other existed.
“We were both adopted from the North Carolina Children’s Home Society in Charlotte,” says Brock, who is now in his fifties and lives near Asheville, North Carolina. “I grew up knowing I was adopted and Eddie grew up knowing he was adopted.” And even though both brothers had happy childhoods, Brock felt the need to learn about his biological parents. “At some point after my daughter was born, I started wanting to look up my mom,” he says. Using a professional genealogy company, Brock tracked down his mother, who was living in Roswell, Georgia, outside of Atlanta.
“I called her, and I asked if it was her. [The company] gave me a script, because it very well could have been the only chance I ever got to speak to her,” Brock says. “I asked if this was a good time to talk about something personal. I told her I was born in Charlotte on this date.” His mother, shocked, asked if she could call him back the next day.
More than a decade after giving up Brock and Wales for adoption in her teens, their mother went on to marry and have three sons, and she had to tell her other children about Brock before she could meet him. “When she called me back the next day, we talked for hours and hours,” Brock says. “She was so sweet about everything. And then I went to Georgia where they live and met all my brothers.”
The relationship between Brock and his newfound family continued for about six months. Then, during a visit, his mother sat him down to share another bit of information: Brock had a full biological brother who had been born a year before him. “We used the same company to track him down,” Brock says. “It took a little longer, but they found Eddie.” After another emotional cold-call, Brock brought Wales into the family. “Now we do vacations, weddings, funerals, births of babies,” he says. “I grew up with two brothers. Eddie grew up with a sister. Our mother is one of twelve. So, it’s a big family.”
Brock and Wales immediately hit it off. “We found out we have a lot in common as we got to know each other,” Wales says. Brock grew up in Asheville, and attended UNC. Wales spent his childhood in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and attended USC. (Both claim to hail from the real Carolina.) “We both chose criminal justice as a major,” Wales says. “I graduated and immediately got into the restaurant industry. Paul went to law school, but then opened a restaurant in Durham.”
Wales now owns Motor Supply Co. in Columbia, South Carolina, and Brock partnered with a friend to open Broad Street Cafe in Durham, North Carolina, which he closed a few years ago before moving to Western North Carolina. This shared love of food—and Brock’s adoptive family’s recipe for beef jerky that he’d been making since college—is perhaps what brought them the closest. “I made jerky all the time for family gatherings and whatnot,” Brock says. “One night, during a family vacation to the lake about five years ago, Eddie and I were sitting around having a beer and we decided we both love jerky and we both had restaurants—why not do something together?”
Now, Brock and Wales get grass-fed beef from Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, North Carolina, to produce jerky they sell in stores across the Carolinas and beyond. “Right now, our focus is independent markets in Columbia, Charleston, Charlotte, Asheville, and Raleigh,” Wales says. If it becomes national that would be great, but right now we’re focusing on being the best beef jerky in the Carolinas. And the fact that we have family in Atlanta is making us think about expanding there, too.”
As the business grows, Wales and Brock aren’t losing sight of why they started it in the first place. “We may incorporate the whole family into the business,” Brock says. “Who knows, someday we may be Seven Brothers Jerky.” And remaining true to family means giving back to the place they came from; Two Brothers’ charitable partner is the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, the agency from which they were adopted fifty-two and fifty-three years ago.