Updated: Jun 17
In March of 2020, Wadesboro, North Carolina received the devastating news that the town’s Walmart Supercenter would be closing its doors within the month. For a rural town like Wadesboro with its desire to grow, and a population of 6,000 (+/-) people, this felt like a crippling blow. Not only did it mean 205 jobs would be lost but so would a substantial chunk of its tax revenue.
By mid-April, Walmart’s enormous 158,000 square foot building had been completely abandoned. The question now is, what type of business would be the best fit for this location to create jobs again for the county? Who knows really. Given that Walmart had been dissatisfied with the store’s financial performance heading up to its closure, it seems likely that another big-box retailer could suffer the same difficulties. However, it doesn't help that Walmart itself has set a very long list of what can and cannot go into that space. That combined with the changing retail landscape and the predominance of online shopping seems to indicate that a different type of business might be a good choice for the residents of Anson County to start rallying behind. Why not use some of the empty spaces all around Wadesboro, like the old fire department Uptown, or one of the old factories or mills available, and use them to create a destination that would be attractive for locals and visitors alike?
Locally made craft beer has never been more popular than it is right now. Its sales make up more than 25% of the 116-billion-dollar beer market in the United States and continue to grow. There are over 50 breweries in the Charlotte metropolitan area alone. Breweries aren’t just for big cities, however. They can make a powerful beneficial impact on rural communities as well by attracting tourists and creating interest in a beautiful region, crucial for rural communities so often overlooked by travelers.
Take small-town Petersburg, Illinois, for example. With a population of just 2,200 people, Petersburg was transformed when a local brewing hobbyist opened up a brewery-and-taproom in a former Dollar General. A year later, his thriving business is a community hub that attracts out of town visitors and has inspired at least two other businesses to open nearby.
In Wadesboro, the old Walmart building could also be transformed into either one large brewery or several smaller craft breweries. Imagine a space with taprooms and a bustling brewpub-restaurant combination. There could be outdoor seating with plenty of green space and a small live music venue for weekends. Anson County already has a burgeoning theater and arts scene, why not compliment it with a business showcasing the age-honored art of brewing beer.
Not only would a brewery-focused endeavor create a source of employment and tax revenue but it would also attract visitors from neighboring Richmond, Stanley, Union, and Mecklenburg Counties. Why trek all the way to Charlotte for that dining and entertainment experience when something so appealing is just a short drive away. The ample parking and non-existent traffic compared to the city alone would be enough of a reason to cross Charlotte off of your list and go to Anson County.
Some may argue that a brewing complex might not be well-received among all members of the Wadesboro community. Back in the 1980s, one of America’s largest brewers, the Coors Brewing Company, chose Anson County as their location pick for a new multimillion-dollar brewing and distribution center. The project was met with local resistance and ultimately another location in a different state was chosen. The lost opportunity to gain a vast amount of tax revenue and countless jobs continues to sting to this day. But the 1980s were a long time ago, and we've grown as a community since then. Hopefully, no one in 2020 would be similarly shortsighted to seize upon new opportunities that would benefit our local community.
The fact is, the fear that a craft brewery would bring an influx of drunkenness and hooliganism to their town is unfounded. What they do bring is education through training, revenue, tourists, and a local identity. Consider the German beer garden — those sprawling casual outdoor spaces that cater to thousands of thirsty visitors each day or even Charlotte’s NoDa area where once a high crime, poor neighborhood became one of the richest and sought after communities to buy in thanks to craft breweries. They are places of community, friendship, good food, and entertainment and are not about drinking to excess. There is no reason why such a concept wouldn’t work and be welcomed into any American community.
One advocate of this plan would be us at DoorXDoor Delivery, an on-demand food, beer, wine, and spirits delivery service. Supporting the local economy by including locally produced craft beer in its deliveries would be a win-win for the community and for its customers alike. DoorXDoor Delivery would love nothing more than to give their customers even more options to choose from, especially when it would mean more jobs and more positive attention for Anson County. Now that’s beer for thought!