Wilkes County, NC Natives Return to Run Businesses
Wilkes natives return with new business concepts
Author Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” but Wolfe never lived in Wilkes County.
More and more people who were born in Wilkes County, or lived in the community and moved away, are now returning home to open new businesses and help the local economy grow. Those natives include Lia Chasar, owner of Elsewhere on 10th in downtown North Wilkesboro.
“I’m a former grad of Wilkes Central High School and went to college to earn my doctorate in oceanography, then I became a research ecologist and worked in Tallahassee, Fla. for more than 20 years,” Chasar says. “However, I also have a passion for cooking, and when I recently returned to Wilkes County to care for my parents, I opened an organic farm-to-table restaurant called Elsewhere on 10th.”
The restaurant uses many products from local farmers and serves salads, soups, sandwiches, sweets and full dinners along with artisan breads, roasted coffees and herbal teas.
“I’m so happy to be back in Wilkes County, a gorgeous area with a lot of potential and many people who are starting small-scale businesses,” Chasar says.
Brewing Up Business
Also enjoying success is Nate Griffin, who with business partner Gregory Brady has established Anchor Coffee Company in North Wilkesboro. Griffin graduated from Wilkes Central and attended Catawba College and UNC-Chapel Hill, then lived in Virginia, Mississippi, Chapel Hill and Salisbury, N.C., before returning to Wilkes.
“I wanted my own business and was in a band at church with Greg, and we discussed establishing a coffee shop in Wilkes County,” Griffin says. “We began roasting coffee at Greg’s house and sold bags to friends who loved our blends, then we bought a large roaster with the help of Wilkes Economic Development Corporation.”
The two entrepreneurs began selling their products on the farmers market circuit to drum up awareness, and in November 2015 Anchor Coffee opened a store on West D Street. Anchor's products are also sold in more than 25 coffee shops and restaurants in North Carolina.
“Tourists who love craft coffee will make detours to visit our facility because we serve high-quality blends from rich beans from Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Sumatra,” he says. “As for Wilkes officials, they are very business-friendly and always alert us to any grant money, and they contact me about events that would be good marketing opportunities to sell our coffee. I wouldn’t want to live or do business anywhere else.”
Doubling Down on Design
Beth Bond remembers the boom days of Wilkes County when the local economy was led by companies like American Dream Furniture, Carolina Mirror, Gardner Mirror, Holly Farms, Key City Furniture, Lowe’s Companies and Lowe’s Foods. Today, she is doing her part to bring resurgence to the community as owner of Beth Bond Interiors LLC on 10th Street in North Wilkesboro. She has expanded her business by opening a one-of-a-kind boutique with co-owner, Pam Shelton Millsaps, a longtime friend and also a Wilkes native. The Pink Pair boutique is a bright and happy shopping destination that carries home furnishings, apparel and gifts. Both businesses are located in the same 10th Street building.
A graduate of Duke University, her passion for art and design led her to Dallas, Texas, to attend art school at North Texas State University. After an exciting 8 years there, she says she "always felt homesick" and returned to the area. Bond eventually accepted an attractive job offer in interior design in Winston-Salem, N.C., where she lived, worked and raised her family for 26 years, until her father, a prominent surgeon in Wilkes County, became ill.
“I came back to help my mother and care for my father, and I quickly renewed my connections with this community and embraced the family-type atmosphere that exists here,” she says. “When I drive anywhere in Wilkes County, I see the most incredible beauty of hills and mountains. I am thrilled to be 'home again,' where the towns of North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro are beginning to thrive again with excitement and a new energy. We heartfully welcome all to come and enjoy!”