Recipients of this year’s entrepreneurial grants from the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. are engaged in agriculture, food service, recreation and/or retail.
They are Brushy Mountain Granola Co., $2,000 for a tent and more for festival booths; Cook’s Outfitters, $2,000 for equipment for renting and repairing bikes and more; Hanna Vista Farms, $4,000 for a freeze dryer for preserving wet hops; Northwest N.C. Batting Facility, $2,000 for cooling equipment and more; Stardust Cellars, $2,500 for bottles and labels for a new line of mead; and Vintage Work Shoppe, $1,000 for equipment for online furniture painting tutorials.
“It’s very exciting that in the middle of the COVID, that we still have all these businesses with plans to expand and look out to the future,” said EDC President LeeAnn Nixon.
Fourteen local businesses applied for grants in the seventh annual competition. The six chosen—three new and three existing—received a total of $13,500. They have one year to use the funds.
Brushy Mountain Granola Co.
Seeds for Brushy Mountain Granola Co. were planted when Angela Reynolds began making healthy, energy-packed snacks for the active, outdoor lifestyle of her daughter, Eiryn Reynolds. Friends liked the granola mixes and wanted more—and said they would pay.
The business, launched early this year, offers nine granola blends made in small batches by Reynolds; her husband, Andy Anderson; and her daughter at their Wilkesboro home. They package it there in 4- and 11-ounce bags. Most emphasize ingredients from Wilkes, such as honey in local favorite “Expedition Blend,” which started the company. “Lemon Made Blend” has locally-grown lemon balm. Reynolds joined up with Anchor Coffee in North Wilkesboro to produce “Early Bird” and, with strong hints of espresso, “Night Owl.” “Bootleggers Blend” has black cherry moonshine from Copper Barrel Distillery in North Wilkesboro.
Volunteers in dozens of taste tests helped develop the blends, said Reynolds, with a professional background in corporate work. They’re sold online at https://www.brushymountaingranola.comand at bike and outdoor equipment shops, coffee shops and other independent retail businesses.
Cook’s Outfitters will open in mid-July in the former J.W. Canter service station building at 100 West Main Street, Wilkesboro, said owner Mark Cook, who also owns Cook’s Sporting Goods in North Wilkesboro.
Cook said it will initially be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Dr. Ron Cohn owns the building and will occupy a portion with Main Street Shaved Ice and Snacks. It’s adjacent to the Carolina West Wireless Community Commons.
Cook’s Outfitters will provide bike rentals and repairs, have a small retail space and soon facilitate kayaking trips. Cook said it will rent mountain bikes, bikes primarily for the Yadkin River Greenway and volleyball, soccer and other recreational equipment.
He cited plans for demo days, hosting other events and participating in town events. Cook’s Outfitters will promote use of local bike trails, the Yadkin River, W. Kerr Scott Reservoir and visitation in Wilkesboro. Contact Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Hanna Vista Farms
Hanna Vista Farms owner Jane Leichter said she will use a grant-funded freeze dryer for researching opportunities with freeze-dried wet hops, a primary ingredient in beer. Hops are the cones (flowers) of hops plants.
Hops most often are dried with hot air right after being harvested for preservation. Demand for beer made from wet hops is increasing, but they have a shelf life of only three or four days. Leichter said freeze-drying should preserve their integrity, while making it possible to store wet hops for extended periods.
Leichter has a background in organic agriculture in Pennsylvania and moved to Wilkes with her husband in 2016. Hanna Vista Farms also has cashmere goats and a llama, which provide fibers for weaving. The farm also produces organically grown strawberries, heirloom tomatoes and a special variety of blackberries. For more information, email email@example.com.
Northwest N.C. Batting Facility
Northwest N.C. Batting Facility, owned by Brandon York and his wife, Jennifer York, opened in March 2020 in the former Key City Furniture warehouse at 503 C St, North Wilkesboro. The building is owned by Scott Nafe. York played baseball at West Wilkes High School and at Campbell University.
The business is a 7,000-suare-foot, self-service, indoor batting and pitching facility for baseball and softball players of all ages. It includes five batting cages, an iron mike baseball pitching machine and three pitching mound lanes for baseball and softball.
York said the facility will provide private instructions for baseball and softball. It can be used for other private lessons and parties. Memberships, packages and individual and team rentals are available at https://www.nwncbattingfacility.com/.
Stardust Cellars, owned by Kaitie and Nicolas von Cosmos, specializes in naturally and sustainably produced wines and meads using local ingredients. Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water and sometimes with produce, herbs and other ingredients to produce different flavors. It is allowed to age for flavoring.
The couple moved to Wilkes from San Diego, Calif., in 2016. They grow grapes at their home on the Brushy Mountains and at their winery off N.C. 115, as well as fruits, mint and other plants for use in their mead. They buy hops from Hanna Vista Farms. Go to https://stardust-cellars.business.site/ for more information.
They opened Stardust Taproom at 1202 Curtis Bridge Road in Wilkesboro in 2019. It serves their wine, mead and craft beer produced in the area. Stardust Taproom has become the site of the Wilkes Drive-Through Food Hub during the pandemic. In addition to beverages from Stardust Cellars, Stardust Taproom sells various produce and meat from local farms and other products from Wilkes.
Vintage Work Shoppe
As owner and operator of Vintage Work Shoppe since 2016, Hope Jordan hand paints antique and vintage coffee tables, chairs, dressers, night stands, sidebar buffets and other wooden furniture on a custom basis for individuals and also to provide merchandise for her shop inside Key City Antiques on Main Street, North Wilkesboro.
Jordan specializes in Shabby Chic design elements and in using mineral and milk paints. She has been hand-painting furniture for about five years.
Jordan sells the types of paint she uses and gives paid Facebook Live individual and group tutorials for her craft, in addition to workshops and private lessons at Key City Antiques.
More details are at http://www.hopejordanatthevintageworkshoppe.com/.
Judges, more on program
Sustainability and potential impact of the funds were important considerations as judges reviewed business plans submitted by the applicants, said EDC Vice President Robin Hamby.
This year’s judges were Bob Urness, Wilkesboro finance director and assistant manager; Amy Blair, Blair Properties; Gia Galifianakis, Gria Consulting; Gary Daemer, InfusionPoints; and Crystal Keener, North Wilkesboro tourism and marketing director and Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership director.
Nixon said, “We believe in entrepreneurship and benefits it adds to a community. These business owners are using innovation and creativity to make Wilkes a better place to live. The real reward is encouraging them and watching their businesses flourish.”
She said applicants can meet with Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, director of the Wilkes Community College Small Business Center, for business plan assistance. In addition, mentors and other resources that can help applicants win an entrepreneurial grant and have a successful business are suggested.