‘Here I am’ – Van Eure’s Raleigh

Van Eure-Angus Barn-2

photograph by Mark Petko

by Stacy Chandler

Before she married and had children, Eure developed the habit of working into the wee hours at the helm of the iconic North Raleigh restaurant her father co-founded in 1960.

But as dear as Angus Barn is to her heart, Eure’s family has always come first. That’s how it is now, as she fits her work schedule around the needs of her husband and two teenaged children, and how it was in her late 20s, when she left her dream job – teaching in Kenya – to return to Raleigh to be with her ailing father, Thad Eure Jr. She had never planned to make a career at Angus Barn, but after her father passed away at 56, she took over the family business.

“Fate just has a way of sort of telling you what you’re supposed to do,” said Eure, now 58, “and here I am.”

These days, she’s in charge of a thriving Raleigh landmark and admired for her hands-on management style. But her Angus Barn career had humble beginnings.

She started working there at 14, doing everything from “cleaning the bathrooms to scrubbing the kitchen equipment to busing tables and washing dishes, all of that,” she said.

That “starting at the basics” mentality – which is what they call it at the Angus Barn – has a practical purpose.

“You need to truly know (each job),” Eure said. “If you don’t, how can you have the respect of the people that are working there, and how can you jump in and help people when you’re needed?”

Jumping in to help is a main part of her job, she said.

“I’m not just sitting up in an office,” she said. “I’m walking around throughout the whole place just checking from the outside in how the parking lot looks, to how the front porch area looks, to how the restrooms look, just really everything.”

In the course of a day, she greets customers in the dining rooms, takes their phone calls, plans for upcoming events and even moves tables or hauls a box of the restaurant’s signature apples up front if that’s what’s needed.

She recounted an interview in which her father, who died in 1988, was asked about the secret of his success.

“He said, ‘Two words: Be there.’”

It’s a business philosophy she has embraced and carried into the Angus Barn’s second half-century. Famed for its steaks, wine cellar, and desserts, the always-bustling, cavernous restaurant has beat long odds since it opened. Back then, a lot of people didn’t expect Angus Barn to last.

“Everyone thought it was really going to be a flop because of how far out in the country it was,” Eure said. “It was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to Angus Barn? OK, pack your bags!’” When the restaurant opened in the 1960s, “there was nothing out there,” she said. “Nothing.”

The Outer Loop wasn’t even a pencil mark on a planning map. Raleigh-Durham International Airport was a “landing strip,” Eure recalls, and hardly international. Not only was next-door Brier Creek decades in the future, the Crabtree Valley Mall wasn’t even built.

But as Raleigh has grown up and out, the once remote Angus Barn has found itself in a prime location.

“We’re right there,” Eure said. “Now it’s probably a perfect location because we’re in between Raleigh and Durham and we’re real near the airport. So now it feels perfect.”

Eure has lived in her current home in North Raleigh – about a 15-minute commute from the Angus Barn – for 17 years. Her home’s four acres offer a natural setting as well as room for her two rescue horses and a constant stream of fostered dogs and cats to roam.


map by Lane Singletary

And North Raleigh’s growth has brought convenience.

“For shopping, you used to have to drive a pretty long way, and now you can go right around the corner,” she said.

There are also plenty of options nearby for dining and entertainment on Tuesdays, which is “family day” in Eure’s household.

“That’s when we either cook at home or go out somewhere together as a family,” she said.

One favorite destination, though it does require a bit of driving, is the Alley on Hillsborough Street, an old bowling alley “recently brought back to life,” Eure said.

Closer to home, Eure likes to wander through Lafayette Village, taking in the European feel and enjoying shops, restaurants and special events. The family also enjoys biking on local greenways (“One of the biggest pluses of Raleigh that I can think of,” she said) and getting back to nature at Durant Nature Park or Umstead State Park.

When she has a little time to pamper herself, Eure heads to the Pink Palm Spa off Millbrook Road for a facial, or to Queen Nails in Quail Corners for a manicure.

“I truly believe that manicures are really important if you’re in the restaurant industry, because your nails and hands always have to look great and clean because you are serving people constantly,” she said.

When she took up the reins at Angus Barn, Eure scarcely thought about a Raleigh that would grow by leaps and bounds and become a mainstay of fawning Top 10 lists. But it’s not just loyalty to the family business that has kept her here.

“It’s addictive, isn’t it? There’s something really great about Raleigh,” she said. “It’s still extremely friendly like a small town is, but yet it has all the wonderful advantages that a city has.”