Lake Norman & Mooresville

Laney's Fish Camp, a family business

The origins of Laney's Fish Camp revolved around family and food deep-fried in fat.

While the menu now includes some healthier broiled options, the concept of family hasn't changed since the restaurant opened 45 years ago.

Any given weekend, brothers Scott and Larry Laney are in the kitchen frying and broiling the sea's best.

Another brother, Mickey, is out on the floor chatting with customers. Larry's wife, Jane, also is in the front taking orders and topping off sweet teas, while their son, Ryan, pitches in with service.

Patriarch Lamar Laney would be proud.

Lamar Laney started the Mooresville business in November 1965. According to sons Larry and Mickey, Lamar was away a lot for work and wanted to be home more often.

At the time, the concept of fish camps was popular, so Lamar hired someone to run the kitchen and opened Laney's.

Larry was 18 at the time and a senior in high school. He began learning all aspects of the restaurant.

With the exception of two years of military service, Larry Laney has always worked in the family business.

"I didn't think about doing anything else," Larry, 62, says. "It's about the only thing I know."

Older brother Mickey, 67, has worked at Laney's for 40 years. After college, he taught in Florida for five years, but at age 26 returned to the Mooresville area; he and Larry are co-owners.

There are advantages and disadvantages of operating a family business. As owners, Larry and Mickey are at the restaurant Wednesday through Saturday working. It means a lot of nights away from home, missing the kids' and grandkids' activities.

And just like any family, there are differences of opinion, but the brothers always work it out.

"Any family will run into that," said Larry Laney. "Sometimes we're just like a husband and wife."

But the advantages of running their own business outweigh the negatives. Since it's family-run, when the restaurant is closed, everyone is off together for vacations or gatherings.

The biggest advantage is the extended family: the customers.

"There are so many of the customers that I consider friends first and customers second," said Mickey Laney, who lives in the Little Mountain community. "We have many customers who have been eating here for 45 years."

Larry Laney, who lives off Brawley School Road, said he enjoys watching the customers grow up. There are many patrons who came as kids and now bring their own children.

However, with more people moving into the Mooresville area from other parts of the country, Larry thinks a lot of residents don't understand the concept of a fish camp: deep-fried food based on homemade recipes served in a fresh and timely manner.

Newer customers come into Laney's and tell the brothers they thought Laney's Fish Camp was a fishing supply store.

"Business has been slower with the economy, and the concept isn't as popular as it once was," said Mickey Laney. "But our food is the same as it's always been."

"Customers come in that hadn't been here for 20 years and tell us the food tastes just the same. I take that as a compliment," said Mickey.

The brothers aren't sure of the future of Laney's Fish Camp - their children are grown with their own careers - but Mickey and Larry plan to continue the business as long as they can.