It’s 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon and Bogie sits on the floor, staring quietly out the glass door. If someone walked in without paying much attention, Bogie might get stepped on. Even so, the spot right inside the Thirsty Pallet, a new bar in downtown Winston-Salem, has been his go-to as of late. His owners, Alan Fordham and Jeffrey Hurley, sit a few feet from him at the bar, holding his brother, Leo, another French bulldog, in their lap.
Fordham drinks a whiskey with Diet Coke while his husband drinks something bubbly.
“We used to come to the old location because we live downtown,” Fordham says. “We come once a week.”
While the small downtown bar hasn’t been open for long, it’s already developing a loyal customer base. The spot, which is located at 249 W. Fourth Street in the middle of downtown, has been a bar since most locals can remember. Before Thirsty Pallet opened in early October, it was the Bar on 4th Street and before that Downtown Brody’s Bar.
Many of Thirsty Pallet’s patrons used to frequent the location when it was something else. For Fordham and Hurley however, this is the best one yet.
“We didn’t know what it was gonna be, but it’s better,” Fordham says.
“We like to bring the dogs,” added Hurley. “It’s more of a neighborhood feel. It’s smaller and you get to know people.”
The shotgun-style space has a long wood bar that runs along one side of the shop, with a few round, high-top tables flanking an opposite wall that’s lined with mirrors. The walls, which look freshly painted, are gray and bare. In the back, there’s a lounge area with a few couches and more mirrors. Cool white Christmas lights line the ceiling, giving the space a hanging-in-your-friend’s-basement vibe. The whole place is simple and borders on being a little too plain. But once you get talking to the customers and the staff, the atmosphere begins to warm.
“We’re still finding our niche,” says Eric Zyglis, who owns the bar with his wife, Beth. “We want to offer great service and good prices.”
Wearing a Buffalo Bills hat and a quarter-zip hoodie, Eric has a friendly air about him, a down-to-earth kind of feel. For him and Beth, opening up Thirsty Pallet was something that they had been hoping to do for years. Both have worked in the service industry and Eric helped open Wise Man Brewing. He also worked as a beer sales rep for a while. Thirsty Pallet brings his passion for beer and customer service together. He’s even implemented programs like tastings for beer and whiskey to help Thirsty Pallet stand out in the crowded downtown market.
“People genuinely care about what they’re putting in their bodies,” Eric says. “We want to offer a plethora of different things.”
The bar also hosts events like live music and karaoke in the lounge area.
Behind the bar, general manager Mindy Smith chats with customers as she pours their brews. She’s also a seasoned service industry survivor and has taken the lead on much of the bar’s menu.
“The owners are very involved and supportive,” Smith says. “That doesn’t happen a lot in bars.”
She runs down the list of the bar’s popular drinks; many of them come from the seasonal menu she’s crafted. Smith says it’s the first time she’s been given creative liberty to make drink offerings from scratch.
“It’s like my own form of artwork,” she says.
And as Smith chats with the regulars who cradle their dog, the scene starts to feel more like a reunion of old friends rather than a casual stop at just another bar; it’s easy and homey.
“You’re not reinventing the wheel when you open a bar,” Eric says. “We’re just trying to create an inviting environment.”
The Thirsty Pallet is located at 249 W. Fourth Street in Winston-Salem.