by Jordan Green
Brown Truck Brewing plans to open a brewpub in the Uptowne section of High Point in the summer. The partners behind the business have already purchased a building and hired a brewmaster.
There’s been a lot of talk about revitalizing High Point, debate about the role of public investment versus the free market, and controversy about the appropriate design elements to make the city more appealing and economically vibrant.
John Vaughan, a 38-year-old general contractor, and Britt Lytle, a 45-year-old freelance furniture designer, had been toying with the idea of transforming their mutual interest in homebrewing into a business for the past two years. With all the talk, the two partners decided they wanted to commit their financial resources and make something happen. Brown Truck Brewing was born.
They purchased a building — which currently houses the At Your Service Today Appliance Repair store — in the heart of Uptowne three days before Christmas. And they recently hired a brewmaster from North Carolina. The two men hope to obtain their federal brewer’s license, retrofit their building and be open for business by the end of the summer.
“We’re just two individuals stepping out and taking a risk to make High Point better,” Lytle said. “John and I said, ‘Sink or swim; let’s just do it.’”
Their concept is fairly simple: A local microbrewery with a couple standby brews that stay on tap and a rotating menu of seasonal beers released in limited quantities. Brown Truck Brewing, named after Lytle’s ’86 Ford pickup, won’t serve food; they want to bring in food trucks and encourage their customers to patronize the many restaurants in the area, including Kepley’s Barbecue and Alex’s House.
Brewing is an art, Lytle said.
“We want to be creative and not necessarily hovering over our brewmaster’s shoulder giving our approval for every move,” he said. “We told our brewmaster: ‘Don’t be afraid to try something new.’”
They plan to use local ingredients and work with a friend who owns an organic farm.
Lytle and Vaughan embrace a vision of Brown Truck Brewing as a component of a walkable High Point that promotes synergy with other local businesses.
“I’d love for people to walk in that area,” Vaughan said. “We’re looking for people who will walk up and down North Main Street as shoppers, or who are walking their dog and want to come hang out. We’ll have a dog bowl out on the patio. Or if you’re out riding your bike, you can stop in for a beer.”
Fonta Flora Brewery in Morganton provides a model for the kind of setting Lytle and Vaughan want to create. They’ll tear up the parking lot to the left of the building and put in an outdoor seating area with fire pits and landscaping. Adjoining the building and behind the seating area, they plan to build a brewhouse with equipment visible to visitors through glass. With an emphasis on craft and quality, they intend to hire a friendly staff that can speak knowledgeably about beer and make informed recommendations to customers.
The two partners said they would like to provide beer to local restaurants and furniture market events. They will likely sell beer in growlers, enabling patrons to take their product home. But they aren’t giving much thought to bottling and at this early stage.
The duo initially looked for a downtown location, but found that the properties were prohibitively expensive. Out of the blue, they decided to call Chris Borsani, who owns At Your Service Today Appliance Repair. Borsani agreed to sell the property for $110,000. Borsani is currently leasing the building from Lytles and Vaughan, and plans to relocate his business to another part of town when they take possession of the property.
The building is already a landmark of sorts in Uptowne, largely thanks to the replica of Elvis Presley in a cage — or jail cell — on the roof, matched by an audio recording of “Jailhouse Rock” triggered by the opening of the front door. Artists Patch Whisky and Siobhan Shene built on the theme in 2012 by painting a mural depicting dead rock stars like Roy Orbison, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly that extends along most of the length of the building.
The Elvis replica wasn’t part of the transaction, but Borsani said he would be willing to part with it if the new owners wanted to put in a bid on it. Lytles and Vaughan are taking a noncommittal stance on whether they will preserve the mural.
“I’ve got a little seller’s remorse,” Borsani said. “My wife said it was time to downsize at my age.”
Borsani, who is about to turn 64, has owned the building for 14 years and worked in the appliance business for about 35 years.
“These gentlemen came in, and seemed to have a good concept,” he added. “I think this will be good for the area.”
Lytle and Vaughan have come to see that the location, while it wasn’t their first choice, is ideal. Emerywood, where they both live, is an affluent neighborhood just to the west with a large number of households with disposable income. And High Point University, with a growing student body and faculty, lies immediately to the east.
Lytle and Vaughan said they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response they received after sending out an email to friends and family to announce their plans. “I want to be the first one,” and, “Can I get the first beer?” were among the reactions.
“High Point’s got great potential, great restaurants and great people,” Lytle said. “We hope we are a welcome addition that helps High Point.”