Tiny Farms, Big Impact

We all know, fresh is better. Calavera Empanadas and Tequila has not only found themselves a fresh location, but is bringing even more freshness to Raleigh’s food scene with their innovative processes.

Previously housed on East Davie Street, Calavera Empanadas and Tequila has now moved into what used to be Moonlight Pizza on West Morgan Street. With the wide open patio space and the great big kitchen, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to expand.

Calavera closed temporarily in February after more than six years in business. They had originally planned to move into the old home of Tasty 8’s on Fayetteville Street, but things did not go according to plan, and aren’t we glad it happened that way? Things started to fall into place with the new space and now when you sit outside at Calavera under the patio lights, it couldn’t be more perfect. One thing that makes Calavera quite unique compared to other Raleigh restaurants can be seen by simply walking by the front of their location. Right in front of their doors are garden beds where they are growing their own ingredients! It is a growing trend for restaurants to use locally sourced ingredients from within Raleigh and NC, but how many restaurants can say that they proudly grow a selection of their very own?

Hyper-local food sourcing, or when a restaurant grows its own ingredients, is the number one concept trend this year among restaurants and this is one urban trend we are very happy to support. Urban farming plays a huge role in the wellbeing of our city. A city growing as exponentially as Raleigh, produces more and more waste as it grows, and urban farming can help to turn urban waste around into something great, and in this case, delicious. 

Not only does urban farming and hyper local sourcing help our city’s environment, but it also ensures the highest quality. Chefs and owners will never have to worry about recalls or what may have been used to grow the produce. Calavera currently has 4 different gardens that are all growing lettuce, jalapenos, tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and other fresh herbs and vegetables used in their amazing tasting offerings. You can taste the freshness one bite into the guac! Their menu is simple, which as someone who always has a hard time deciding what to eat, I adore. Each menu item has a simple list of its ingredients and it was so fun to see the ingredients and then head over to the garden beds to see which items would have the most urban farmed. 

They specialize in, you guessed it, empanadas and tequila. Their cocktails are made with house made mixes and garnished with herbs fresh from their garden. As their website reads,  “No syrupy lime juice from a plastic bottle.  Check out the guns on those bartenders, everyday they squeeze a lot of limes to make sure that you are getting the best.” Know that when you visit Calavera, you are hands down getting the best quality available.

Another fantastic part about Calavera is its location. This space is right in the Boylan Heights neighborhood making it a hot spot close to so many family homes. Funny enough, it is equally as close to Raleigh’s new coworking space, WeWork.

When you are sitting outside on the patio you can literally see the WeWork sign and its building, making Calavera not only walkable from home, but also from the office. Whether you’re craving empanadas for lunch or want a post work cocktail, this is the perfect spot. 

We hope to see other local restaurants hop on the urban farming trend! We will always be keeping an eye out to share. Give Calavera a try and take a picture on the picturesque patio (there are string lights). If you share on social media, tag us on Facebook, @UrbanMJblog

Top 5 Picks for Experiential Retail in Durham

  1. Parker and Otis

112 South Duke St

There is only one place in Durham where you can get a latte, lunch, and the perfect birthday gift all at once, and that is Parker & Otis. Parker & Otis is a unique combination of restaurant and gift shop. Located in historic Downtown Durham, they are open seven days a week, serving breakfast and lunch with an amazing array of gifts, gourmet foods, cheese, wine and candy. Their menu is created with many locally sourced ingredients and coffee from Durham’s very own, Counter Culture. Aside from ingredients grown and handpicked in the Triangle, they also have other goods from all over NC. From Winston to Wilmington, Parker & Otis carries all sorts of baked goods and other non perishables in their shop.

Whether you’re shopping for a birthday, making a gift basket for a friend going through a hard time, or just want a new coffee spot to hang with your friends, Parker & Otis is a must try.


2. Vert and Vogue

353 W. Main St

Before I tell you about this story, fall in love with its story, “Nadira and Ryan Hurley, founders of Vert & Vogue, met in Paris in 2001 at a men’s boutique managed by Nadira. After buying a new wardrobe from her, Ryan couldn’t help but ask Nadira out on a date. After a little persistence (she didn’t date her customers), she accepted. They were soon married in 2002. Following a honeymoon year living in Paris, they moved to New York and started a family. They soon found themselves in the suburbs wanting more. For Ryan, that meant a green business. For Nadira, a return to retail fashion. From those intentions, the concept of Vert & Vogue was born. The gritty revitalizing city of Durham would become its perfect home. Nadira and Ryan opened the doors of Vert & Vogue on September 10, 2008.” Vert and Vogue is known for being the best selection of contemporary goods for women from today’s top independent designers and they fully live up to the expectation.

Vert & Vogue goes above and beyond a simple clothing store. They offer mindfully-made designs and personal styling, with care. They curate hard-to-find clothes, shoes, accessories, and home goods and have a heart for quality. Coolest of all is that in December 2017, they became a certified B Corp. They are committed to supporting artisans who create on a small scale and focus on sustainable practices. Take a closer look at the quality of your closet, and then step into Vert & Vogue to make some important changes.  


3. The Zen Succulent

121 Market Street

When mother/daughter team of Margaret and Megan George started their shop in a small space on Parrish Street, they had no clue that their plant shop would become THE place to see in Durham. From people wanting to go there and take photographs, or just to be able to post and say that they finally got to check it out, Zen Succulent quickly became a popular location and taught us all how to care for plants like children. Now, they have opened a second location in Downtown Raleigh AND have recently moved to a bigger Downtown Durham space due to their large success. From unique succulents to a build your own terrarium station, there is so much beauty to see and experience. They strive to bring fresh air and brightness into locals lives and if you haven’t visited their shop yet, it is a must.


4. Chet Miller

Photo by: Walter Magazine

118 West Parrish St

Welcome to the coolest store ever. Filled with local goods and other independently makers, Chet Miller has a variety of elevated goods for everyday life and also cards and books that will make you laugh your butt off. Chet Miller is the perfect locally owned shop to find a gift for someone who has everything, but then will also make you want to buy many pretty little things for yourself. For example, last time I visited Chet Miller, I left with a hilarious book about Kim Kardashian for a friend just because it was one of those random gifts that you would never buy for yourself, but instantly love it. Then, I also left with a blanket that was so soft I couldn’t leave without it.

From paper products to cookbooks to beautiful office supplies, Chet Miller is filled with things that spark joy. If you want some gifts that have some personality to them, this needs to be your next visit.


5. Bungalow

339 W. Main St

Located in the heart of Five Points, Bungalow features eclectic home decor, handcrafted stoneware, fine French linens, hand-forged pewter from Italy, local woodcraft, local folk art, Portuguese soaps, local all-natural skincare and bath products, silk pillows from Turkey, North Carolina crafted leather, and fine stationery. When it comes down to it, Bungalow is a beautiful space filled with unique finds to add to your home. From kitchen to bed linens, if you want to furnish your living space with more than the basic Bed, Bath, and Beyond, switch to Bungalow.


Thank you all for joining us at Urban MJ! We hope to continue to serve as an educator of urban development, economic growth, and the best of the best local goods and services! Follow us along to stay in the know of upcoming Triangle news and industry updates!

Out with the old, in with the Concept

Concept stores are quickly persuading us to trade in the same old same old for a fresh experience, especially when it comes to food & drink. You can drink coffee while cats paw around, eat lobster rolls while also having rolled ice cream, and you can even support a nonprofit by buying lunch at A Place at the Table.

Why simply drink a cup of coffee when you could drink a cup of coffee and also get your motorcycle repaired at the same time? Brilliance. Jammer Cafe in Canada has done just that and the people love it. Who has the next experiential retail idea to share with Raleigh!? We want to hear it.

Check out this concept coffee shop and all it has to offer: https://www.jammercafe.com/


The Reinvention of Grocery Stores

How many of you have been in Downtown Urban areas and thought, if there was a grocery store in walking distance I’d be set? I have been in many walkable cities where they seemed to have everything I needed, except for a close place to get fresh produce or specialty items. The demographic of those living in complex in urban areas, are the same demographic that want the type of products carried at stores like The Fresh Market and Whole Foods. Here in the Triangle and in other up and coming cities, there has been total reinvention of grocery stores in urban locations to fill this void for urban residents.

Well-known (and normally huge) grocery chains are beginning to come up with smaller solutions that make sense for walkable locations. We have all seen a Walmart Express a time or two, but now large chains are getting super inventive.

For example, Dollar General recently unveiled its new DGX,a  smaller format store,, to serve busy, metropolitan shoppers with everyday low prices on the essentials they need in a convenient, easy-to-shop format. The store even features items not typically found in quick-trip stores including a carefully-edited assortment of home, electronics and seasonal offerings. Dollar General made cool again. I am here for it. The Raleigh location has been extremely successful. Not only is it a fresh and new concept for the area, but services the quick needs of those who are on-the-go.

Photo by: New Raleigh

There are also many new market concept locations popping up in cities Raleigh and Durham. Weaver Street Market, which started in Carrboro, NC, is now opening a Raleigh location in January of 2019. The 12,600-square-foot store will be located at The Dillon. Weaver Street Market is a worker- and consumer-owned cooperative selling natural and organic food with a focus on local and fair trade products. Weaver St. prides itself on being “community owned” and hosts many community wide events.

In Durham, Bulldega Market is opening. Bulldega is a family owned and operated grocery store that will be located in the heart of downtown Durham across the street from City Hall. This market will provide access to local produce and humanely raised meat, along with those everyday household items that you can’t live without. One driving value of this family market is healthy, sustainable eating at accessible prices. They will also have ready-to-eat lunches for a quick bite or those taking their lunch break.

Photo by: Sweet Tea and Pasta

These unique chain store spin-offs and family owned markets with a passion for local, have completely revitalized the grocery options for those in developing cities. Fresh, local food has been much needed for Downtown areas and I can’t wait to see these concepts flourish.

Be sure to check out their sites for more information!

Bulldega:  http://www.bulldega.com/

Weaver St. :  https://www.weaverstreetmarket.coop/

Urban Farming: Lend a Local Hand in Raleigh

Mom always said to “eat your greens”, well wouldn’t she be even more proud if you helped grow them? Our lovely, local urban farms give the community an opportunity to do just that. Locals can go to their local farm to help all along the growing and harvesting process.

Urban farming has changed the game for the “farm to table” trend. Many local restaurants and cafes pride themselves on serving meals with local grown components and ingredients.


The Raleigh City Farm

Photo by: Visit Raleigh

Located on a 1 acre plot of land in vibrant Downtown Raleigh, Raleigh City Farm is the perfect place to lend a hand. Their produce is sold weekly to many restaurants and chefs in the area. Raleigh City Farm’s principal farmer, James, studied culinary arts and moved back to Raleigh to dig deeper into the food industry, down to the roots. On their website, you can sign up to volunteer to get your hands dirty in the garden or help with the events they host. Typically there is plenty of weeding to be done, prepping beds/composting, and mowing/weed-whacking. They are currently hosting two ongoing volunteer days:  Wine+Weeds on Wednesdays (6-7pm) and Saturday Work Days (9am-12 noon). Wine and Weeds is a weekly weeding party every Wednesday (April – October). Just show up for the perfect wind down Wednesday.

You can also schedule a group work day for family, friends, or coworkers via email.

Sign up here: https://raleighcityfarm.org/getinvolved/volunteer/


Triangle Urban Farm

This Apex urban farm uses a unique and sustainable growing system. One couple with a passion, Kim and Nick, are on a mission to inspire, empower, teach and provide. “It starts with food. Plant a seed and watch it grow.”

They want everyone to know that anyone can have access to and benefit from fresh, whole food. Triangle Urban Farm is “on a mission to grow better, grow greener and grow happier. One person, one family, one community at a time; they are going to change the world through food.”

All of the farms plants are sprouted from non-GMO, organic and heirloom seeds. You can currently find their produce used at A Place at the Table and 18 Seaboard. They LOVE to educate- shoot them an email for a tour or to learn how to get involved!

Supporting local farms helps grow our city’s economy and supports wellness. When you truly understanding the growing of our food and get to see seed to produce what it takes, it leaves a person with appreciation for whole foods and the motivation to eat more of them! There is nothing more rewarding than knowing (or being) the hand that grew your food.

Top 5 Picks for Experiential Retail in Raleigh

As urban areas flourish, more and more experiential retail is popping up and Raleigh is no exception. Experiential retail means that there is more happening than simply product being sold. The idea is that a retailer offers consumers a chance to buy an experience, rather than just an object or service. Studies are showing that new generations are looking to buy an experience and are willing to spend a great deal more money on a place that offers a certain vibe or extra service, rather than buying the average product on the shelf.

These retailers below are selling products that have a bigger purpose. From supporting local artisans, to building partnerships with makers in other countries, these local shops are making a difference in our city and in other parts of the world. As these local shops thrive, that means our community thrives! Shopping local keeps money in our community, and shopping through these retailers does just that! So without further ado, here are our top 5 picks for experiential retail in Raleigh!


  1. The Flourish Market: https://www.theflourishmarket.com/

Photo by: The News and Observer

In 2015, The Flourish Market owner, Emily Sexton, left her corporate career as a Vice President of Communications and Change Management for an Investment Bank, and decided to transfer her skills over to help win people over to the idea of using their purchasing power for good. What started as a mobile store in an old uniform delivery truck, has now transformed into a gorgeous brick and mortar store on 713 Tucker St.

The Flourish Market wins us over daily by sharing personal stories and behind the scenes on their social media, partnering with other local retailers, and by selling beautiful goods made by beautiful women. Their business currently partners with 50+ brands that work all over the world, providing dignified jobs and fair wages to inspiring artisans and makers in vulnerable communities. Shopping at The Flourish Market not only supports makers in communities where it could be hard to make money, but also supports economic growth in our own community. Check out their store front or shop their website!


2) Raleigh Provisions: http://raleighprovisions.com/

Photo by: Raleigh Provisions

Pretty new to the Downtown Raleigh area is our number 2 pick: Raleigh Provisions. It is a corner shop full of North Carolina specialty food, wine, beer and custom-made gift baskets. Raleigh Provisions is your one stop shop for all North Carolina artisan goods. The shop is a place for getting to know North Carolina’s food and beverage market and the people making it happen.

From local beer to artisan chocolate to fresh eggs, all your local favorites are sold here!

All items they sell are carefully selected for quality and transparency of ingredients, as well. Local goods often are made with consideration of the consumer. Local makers care deeply about the health and wellness of their customers and strive to provide the best, whereas some big box stores might not have your best interests at heart. Shopping local at Raleigh Provisions not only provides economic support to local makers, but also promotes health and wellness for our community.

Raleigh Provision also often hosts events in partnership with local business owners and brands. Be sure to follow them on social media to stay in the know for future workshops or meet and greets!


3) Deco Raleigh: http://decoraleigh.com/home

Photo by: Deco Raleigh

This unique Raleigh retailer is hitting some huge milestones this year! They just opened their brand new location that combined Deco and their Deco home store. Their new location is next door to Quercus, facing Salisbury Street and you can’t miss it! They are also celebrating their 5 year anniversary in November! Deco is known as the go-to for unique gift buying or buying a local good for your home. They sell a variety of products for each and every lifestyle. Deco is the place to go to find trendy new brands like Swell water bottles or local Raleigh goods such as Videri Chocolate, Raleigh themed stickers, or North Carolina tees! Aside from selling goods that put money back into our community, they also donate to many local nonprofits every year. So whether you purchase for yourself or as a gift, know that your money is giving back.

Check out their website to see all the brands they sell and to read their blog posts! Be sure to also check out their brand new location!


4) Stitch : https://hollyaiken.com/pages/about

Photo by: Stitch

We’ve all seen this colorful corner store Downtown right beside Raleigh Times, but have you ever peeked inside to check it out? Stitch is a retail store filled with simplistic and sophisticated bags designed by Raleigh native, Holly Aiken. Stitch, the retail design studio for Holly Aiken Bags, first opened in 2004 and moved to its current location on Hargett Street in 2008.

“In addition to retail space, Aiken devotes the second half of Stitch to the design studio and manufacturing facility of her distinctive bags and accessories. Every Holly Aiken Bag is built in North Carolina – cut by hand at Stitch, and sewn by local independent seamstresses. Her distinctive look is present in every piece – simple lines, distinctive colors, and constructed with precision and care to withstand the daily grind.”

Stitch supports numerous local, independent seamstresses and is a unique place in our community. If you’re looking to shop local and meet some wonderful people in the process, check out Stitch and Holly Aiken Bags!


5) Port of Raleigh: https://portofraleigh.co/pages/about-us

Port of Raleigh is not only known for their bright yellow wall, but also for their simplistic and modern style. Full of home decor and furniture, Port of Raleigh is a go-to for decorating your home with unique and artful pieces. They work with well-known, independent, and emerging designers and studios from around the world to create a unique collection of contemporary yet timeless items. Shopping at Port of Raleigh supports local designers and small business owners around the world. Owner Ana Maria Munoz believes that “through good, simple design, these things we live with and use daily can be useful and artful, purposeful yet clever, and perhaps most important, refreshingly modern yet timeless.”

Check out their store next to Poole’s Diner on S. McDowell St.


Thank you all for joining us at Urban MJ! We hope to continue to serve as an educator of urban development, economic growth, and the best of the best local goods and services! Follow us along to stay in the know of upcoming Triangle news and industry updates!

The Flourish Market: A Purpose Driven Boutique

How many of you have shopped at The Flourish Market boutique in Downtown Raleigh?

The Flourish Market is a unique shop that partners with 50+ brands that work all over the world, providing dignified jobs and fair wages to inspiring artisans and makers in vulnerable communities. “Their products serve a bigger purpose, just like you.” Owner, Emily Sexton, strives to empower woman and connect with her customers on a deeper level. Read the N&O’s article to see how this CEO got her start.






Top 5 Picks for Convenient, Healthy Eating in the City of Raleigh

Trending as of lately is a strong focus on healthy eating in urban cities. Accessibility to healthy food is becoming more advocated to developers. As more studies and books about health and wellness come out, more people are aware of the ingredients they are eating and want to be served the best. There has been a demand for health focused restaurants all over the country, and right here in Raleigh. The healthy eating focus along with more people wanting to shop locally and support their communities, has resulted in many specialized restaurants catered to those who are concerned about their health and the environment.


There is a important link between human health and development, and communities need good health to thrive. Urban MJ has a real estate service practice that focuses on high walkability communities, especially downtowns. Easy access and walkability to these health focused restaurants is important to the community of the Triangle and urban cities around the country. As developing urban cities create more and more space for healthy eating, new businesses create unique product and initiatives. There are now juice bars, restaurants that use local, rotating ingredients, and even restaurants using grass-fed beef from farms in our state.


Here are our Top 5 Picks for Convenient, Healthy Eating in the City of Raleigh:


  1. Raleigh Raw

Located in the heart of Downtown, Raleigh Raw prides itself on their raw juice options and urban feel. They began delivering our 100% Raw, Organic, and Cold Pressed juices throughout the Triangle in 2013. As a nutrition and health coach, founder Sherif Fouad, has an obvious passion for bringing better health to his community and his juice bar is the manifestation of this passion. Raleigh Raw not only offers 12 bottled juices, perfect for on the go, but also has 3 juice cleanse options and a delivery juice subscription. “Raleigh Raw was created to inspire an optimal lifestyle through connection, acceptance and healthy highs, says owner Sherif Fouad,…We believe in the power of raw juice, pressing up to 5 lbs of produce into each 17oz bottle, which is the perfect way to get clean, healthy, and fast nutrition.” Check out their flagship store on 7 W Hargett St., Raleigh, NC 27601.

Follow along on social media at https://www.instagram.com/raleighraw/


  1. Clean Juice

Husband-and-wife team Landon and Kat Eckles also recognized the growing trend where people are now investing in their health, often spending more money on food than clothing. The entrepreneurs founded Clean Juice, the only USDA-certified organic juice bar franchise, with the mission of inspiring others to be healthy in body and strong in spirit. Products include acai bowls, juices, juice cleanses, smoothies, oat bowls, custom toast products, and other healthy snacks. There are now two locations in the Triangle, including one in the center of Park West Village, and one in Downtown Chapel Hill, walking distance to the college campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. If you’re in the Raleigh area, check out the Clean Juice in Park West Village, conveniently located beside Orangetheory Fitness!

Follow Clean Juice to check out their options at https://www.instagram.com/clean.juice/


  1. B Good

Now with a brand new location in Downtown Raleigh, one in North Hills and Park West Village, B. Good has become a delicious option in walkable distance from many offices and other retail stores. B. Good is the perfect place to take a lunch break or head to dinner for burgers. They offer chef created, real food made in partnership with NC farmers including seasonal salads, grass-fed burgers, and veggie bowls. They also have a catering service perfect for work events or parties! What is special about this place aside from the convenient locations is their amazing work with local farmers. Raleigh is a city all about community. Partnership is what makes the job get done. Follow along! https://www.instagram.com/bgoodraleigh_nc/


  1. Fiction Kitchen

Meet Fiction Kitchen, a local food revolution! After years of work in the food industry and their successful pop-up food events, The Fiction Kitchen has successfully make their dream come true: to open up a 100% vegetarian restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina. Conveniently located in Downtown Raleigh, Fiction Kitchen serves your favorite dishes, but made vegetarian and vegan style. They specialize in vegetarian cuisine that is uniquely fresh, creative, locally sourced and carefully prepared. It is not just your plain jane veggie burger. They are also known for their fabulous brunch that varies between traditional brunch fare like French Toast, “bacon” and huevos rancheros to Thai food, “crab” cakes and southern classics like biscuits with gravy and pulled “pork” BBQ…. all made vegan!! They are located on 428 S. Dawson St., with close proximity to the art and warehouse district, the Depot and other downtown Raleigh nightlife, and the North Carolina State Farmers Market and the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market which allows them to offer seasonal menu changes and create daily menu specials based on the freshest local produce available. Check out their beautiful food photography on their social media! https://www.instagram.com/thefictionkitchen/


  1. Living Kitchen

Started in Charlotte, NC in 2012, Juliana Luna and Stephen Edwards discovered they shared a passion for plant-based cuisine. Both believed strongly in the positive benefits of living foods and felt that the city of Charlotte needed a restaurant that prepared organic, plant-based dishes of the taste, quality and presentation they desired. Juliana, with the creativity of a master chef, designed a plant-based menu that would surprise and delight the most discerning palates. The historic Atherton Mill in Charlotte’s South End proved an ideal location to design a restaurant that complimented the artistry of the food, and a neighborhood institution was born. Building on the success of the original South End location, Living Kitchen opened a location in Raleigh in 2016, followed by Chapel Hill. The Raleigh location is conveniently located in North Hills.



As you can see, healthy eating is only a few minutes away. These places are walkable from many apartments and homes, and are located in walking distance to some great fitness locations and retail stores! Boost your wellness by walking to your dinner and then eating a healthy meal at one of these delicious places! Cheers!

From Tap to Table – Craft Breweries Revitalizes Communities

From Tap to Table – Craft Breweries Revitalizes Communities

By Emily Allan with Marcus Jackson



The creation of beer dates back to 5th Millennium BC and has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to build and expand civilization. Over this time, we witnessed the production of beer evolve from Artisanal to Industrial and back again to Artisanal. To this day, craft breweries continue to be the catalyst in building up civilization and building our community. It begs the question, “if you build a craft brewery, who will actually come?”

Overall NC statistics

North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South, with more than 258 breweries and brewpubs.  There are 56 breweries in the Research Triangle, an increase over the prior year of 43. In the past year, 4 have closed but were immediately replaced by new breweries. See all 56 of the breweries here: Triangle Brewery List 6-1-18 (1). What is it about North Carolina that provides a stable and thriving atmosphere for breweries to thrive? Or, maybe we should ask ourselves, what is it about breweries that create a stable and thriving environment in their community?


Community Building

As I sit outside one of my favorite craft breweries in Durham, Ponysuaurus, I notice all walks of life coming and going.  To the left of me is a gathering of families with kids running about as the adults unwind and catch up. To the right, there are couples accompanied by their furry friends. Everyone is engaged. Everyone is mingling. No one is looking at their phone. No one is distracted by a wall of TV’s, mainly because there aren’t any. It dawns on me, I am the odd one out as I sip on my Plum Saison and peer over my computer screen.


A group of people in running gear start to gather inside the fence and my interest is piqued. I walk over and inquire. Fleet Feet organizes a group of runners who gather at the pub, every Thursday, and head out for a 3 mile or 5-mile jaunt around Durham. They circle back at the end and treat themselves to a lovely beverage and more chit-chat. This got me thinking, who else uses their local pub as a place to gather? I am looking at their Facebook events page and start RSVP’ing to just about everything. The diversity of gatherings is impressive. The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has a preview party planned which is open to the public. I scroll further. May is Foster Care Month and Ponysaurus is hosting an event to support foster care families as well as educate the community about additional volunteer opportunities within the foster care system. As I review past events, a pattern is blatantly obvious and that is that each event circles around community building. A brewery is not just a place to go grab a pint, although by all means, that is perfectly acceptable! It is a place that provides a forum for emerging artist to showcase their work, it provides ample opportunities to volunteer and gives back. Essentially, it is the cornerstone of the community, itself.



Three Brewery Tours
On my visit to Ponysaurus, I found out when it first opened in 2016, it was the only consumer establishment in this gritty east side area of Downtown Durham.  Now suddenly, it is being surrounded by economic vibrancy. Smashing Boxes, a 10-year-old high growth tech company, just renovated a 1930’s built former Canada Dry bottling facility into its new headquarters, which it moved from the American Tobacco campus. The Fruit, housed in a former 1920’s-built fruit and produce company, opened down the street a New York style arts and entertainment center.  And restaurants and offices are being quickly announced all around Ponysaurus. Scott Howell, the famed restaurateur, just announced a move here.

I was so amazed at the Ponysaurus beer, the fun social experience, and the amazing community impact, I continued my brewing investigation.  Next stop, Bond Brothers Beer Company, where Jay and Jeremy Bond, Whit Baker and Andy Schnitzer, have established an award-winning brewery in the rapidly revitalizing Downtown Cary.  While the founders were brewing first in a shack behind someone’s home, the Town was heavily investing in its downtown’s infrastructure, to include a revitalizing Academy Street and a new urban park along with a Town Theatre.  

Jay, Jeremy, Andy and its Certified Cicerone Brewmaster, Whit Baker, performed so well, they decided to locate in a spot where a dumpster and a flower shop once stood.  When talking with the owners, I was so curious as to why they picked a low visibility location and heard “We liked it because of the lack of visibility….it created a sense of gathering together in a more private setting.”  

And on opening day, they were met with immediate excitement and beer success.  Over 6,000 people attended which were brought here only by word of mouth, social media and the fact that the Bond brothers belong to a large running group….1,100 strong.  The Bonds already had roots in Cary. On opening day, they easily had over 50 volunteers to handle the crowds….just amazing! They were struck by the diversity of the crowd, including a mom’s group of about 20 with their strollers and kids.  “This was a pivotal moment, as we knew we created a safe and inclusive place for everyone.”

Since opening day, Bond Brothers has added an events room, countless events and restaurants are opening nearby….one can get a pizza next door at Pizzeria Faulisi or at the Food Trucks that serve the crowd.  Check out the video of the Bond Brothers Fall Festival.  And their beer only gets better.  It offers a wide variety of beer styles – from IPA’s to Stouts, Berliner Weiss to Cream Ales.  They even offer locally made sodas from their friends at Brood and white and red wine for those wanting something a little different.


A Trip to Wake Forest

Only fitting that I visit a diversity of locations from the hyper-growing Durham downtown; to the downtown of the long-established RTP (Research Triangle Park) bedroom community of Cary; to the booming northeastern Raleigh suburb of Wake Forest.  So nice to talk with Dino Radosta, the Founder of White Street Brewing, the beer with a Small Town Soul.  

Dino is unique in the local craft brewing industry, as he did not have a prior career or interest in brewing.  He was a successful software entrepreneur with a passion for the charming, historic downtown of Wake Forest. He had been frustrated that no one had wanted to experience downtown, so he set out to turn the lack of interest around.  He first wanted to develop a community establishment in the historic former car dealership that he decided to purchase. He even thought about a restaurant and settled on a brewery. He then set out to hire the best brewmaster he could find, which has turned out be his biggest key to success.  He likes to also say he “makes beer that lasts”, just like the charming downtown. And he further says “if you do something, you must do it right”.

Opening day was September 12, 2012. The Town had provided proactive help in his meticulous rehabilitation of the old car dealership. Dino continues to compliment the Town’s effort to ensure his business success. The Town also made infrastructure improvements to produce a more pedestrian friendly White Street.  But, construction was still ongoing on opening day. In spite of the sidewalks being incomplete, the crowd waiting to consume their first taste of Wake Forest beer was 100 feet deep. Since opening day, White Street Brewing has grown from its initial 4,000 sf facility to a total of 60,000 square feet, including a new production facility off-site.  It now distributes statewide and several of its beers have won national and international gold and silver medals.

Dino has since become a downtown leader and in fact, co-sponsors Friday Night on White, which occurs every second Friday evening during the Spring and Summer.  Two years ago, the first one attracted 6,000 and these days, attendance is close to 10,000 and is a major economic boost for all of downtown.  

Like Downtown Durham and Cary, Wake Forest is undergoing a renaissance and is already a highly walkable suburban downtown.  A new 160 unit urban-style townhome community with rooftop terraces is currently under construction in downtown by Stanley Martin Homes. And how wonderful that the B & W Hardware Store, established in 1949, is thriving in the face of big box competition.  The family co-owner, Josephy Kimray summed up craft brewing’s economic impact on local small business by saying:

The presence of White Street Brewing has made a tremendous impact on our business. Although we have been in this location for almost 70 years, the brewery’s presence has allowed us to reintroduce ourselves to the community with updated product offerings for the new customer demographic that is now present. These new customers are not just out-of-town visitors, but also local residents that now have a renewed sense of pride in our Historic Business District. Since the opening of White Street Brewing in 2012, our annual total sales figure has more than tripled; and we have become the largest dealer of Traeger Wood Fired Grills in the state of North Carolina. Much of this is due to the added exposure and foot traffic we have seen since the brewery’s opening.”

Economic Impact

Small towns and blighted industrial areas in the larger cities are the prime locations for regeneration. Breweries serve as an anchor in these parts as they are usually the first business to put down roots. In addition to encouraging regeneration and investment of previously undesirable areas, breweries are one of the few sectors in manufacturing that shows job growth. Once a brewery is established, we see pockets of prosperity start to grow as other businesses gravitate towards these anchors.

As an advocate for growth and economic prosperity across the Triangle and Triad regions, I’ve seen firsthand the impact breweries have had on our communities. They are literally “game changers” time and time again for mostly forgotten and very old urban industrial districts and often on blighted housing surrounding them.  Instead of building new, these breweries are helping to propel the green movement by recycling old buildings and using local ingredients. Relationships and taking care of one another can strengthen a community. Businesses that support one another’s missions and goals foster growth. My goal is to continue to share those stories of success and provide a platform for others to share theirs.

 Urban MJ is an information hub founded by Marcus Jackson to connect citizens, investors, tenants, and those passionate about their walkable communities through intelligent discussion on urban investment in both existing and rising metropolitan areas. Through Urban MJ, Marcus utilizes his years of experience in mixed-use and urban assets to offer valuable insight into the practice of urban investment, adaptive re-use, and development.

Urban Farming

UrbanMJ has renamed urban retail to “street commercial” and will bring creative and leading-edge uses that are adapting to the rising urban population  Creative retail also serves as a magnet to draw suburbanites into downtowns.  Street commercial is no longer all about traditional retail, bars and restaurants.  Of all the locational varieties, high walkability locations are in the best condition to meet the intensely increasing interest in “experiential” retail.  There is also a rising demand for street-level office, particularly with tech companies.  And talk about innovative retail…downtowns are a magnet and include Food Halls, such as Morgan Street Food Hall soon to open in downtown Raleigh to Cat Cafes to the Ax Throwing Bar about to open in downtown Durham.
Urban Farming has been first rising in the gateway cities and now they are starting to sweep the smaller major cities, such as Raleigh City Farm in Downtown Raleigh.  Raleigh City Farm is on the street and serves both restaurants and is direct to consumer, thus benefitting the local population that literally walk to buy fresh produce.  The next evolution is rooftop urban farming.  Why not move street uses to the roof and full advantage of the sun!  The linked article is all about rooftop urban farming and all about efficient delivery to the local population.  In this case, this venture is “for profit” and is part of a wider movement to bring rooftop gardens and greenhouses to North American cities.  To borrow a great quote in the article “if you can grow a strawberry in January, you can charge whatever you want.”