by Eric Ginsburg
It doesn’t really matter exactly how you measure it; Winston-Salem’s oldest brewery is a juggernaut.
Foothills, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, is more than just one of North Carolina’s largest and most popular breweries. It’s also growing rapidly, as evidenced by a new taproom that open in Winston-Salem last week. But even as the beer makes inroads in places like Washington, DC — where it’s available at the Nationals’ MLB stadium — there is still a gap in the local market.
Sure, people in Greensboro can find Foothills beer at Harris Teeter, tap takeovers at Sticks & Stones and other bars throughout the city. And yes, as my colleagues and I try to hammer home every week, Winston-Salem and Greensboro aren’t really that far apart.
But many of our neighbors just don’t make the drive, and probably rightly so in this case since we’re talking about drinking. A Foothills brewpub — something like its existing bar and restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem or its counterpart Natty Greene’s in downtown Greensboro — would be an expansion into the local market rather than cannibalizing patrons from the brewery’s existing establishments.
Foothills has created a loyal following in the Gate City, and if people had the option to walk, bike, taxi or Uber to the venue, I’m confident people would be all over it. And did I mention the food is good?
There are plenty of empty buildings — many of them former restaurants — or vacant lots in Greensboro that could support an established brand like Foothills, particularly because it would be a destination. There’s still several spaces downtown, including near the Grasshoppers stadium, the eastern flank of the city’s core, and the southwestern edge of the Downtown Greenway loop near Lee Comer’s project and Marty Kotis’ planned beer garden.
I imagine such a thing would still be several years into the future, at which point I could imagine it across the street from Gerbing on South Elm Street, or in the warehouse behind the Nussbaum Center a few blocks away. Or what about buying out Greensboro College’s theater building and anchoring the area across from Westerwood Tavern, or taking up residence inside the former Anton’s restaurant on Battleground Avenue? Foothills would fit in well on Spring Garden Street towards Lindley Park, the burgeoning Golden Gate Plaza, and countless other places.
I’ve been kicking the idea around for a while now, and plenty of drinking folks in Greensboro have heartily agreed. I even asked Foothills spokesperson Ray Goodrich what he thought about it, but he didn’t respond to my emails.
Considering how much Foothills beer is already sold in the Gate City, I imagine the company could get a sense of the numbers for how feasible this would really be. And maybe with its recent expansion, the time isn’t right. But Foothills, keep Greensboro in mind as you continue to grow in the next few years, because there’s a home here waiting for you.
[Photo above of Foothills founder Jamie Bartholomaus, by Carolyn de Berry]