The Plant promises to be the pinnacle of Pittsboro-produced potations, so libation lovers will be pleased to welcome two new additions to the Chatham Beverage District.
Mark and Dawn Stover had just opened for business when Gov. Roy Cooper enacted pandemic restrictions.
“We’ll always remember when we started business,” Mark Stover said. “We literally incorporated and signed our lease 10 days before the shelter-in-place order.”
Stover feared the couple’s fledgling coffee business might suffer under the abnormal conditions, but he was surprised to discover unique advantages to their position.
“It kind of worried us a little bit,” he said, “but the one thing that was actually good is that we had already planned, as a new business, to operate on a pretty slim budget initially. When everything shut down it put a lot of people that were actually very well-established back to where we were.”
Not having established business practices allowed Vortex Roasters to pivot without sustaining significant revenue loss. From the beginning it was obvious — online sales would determine the company’s success.
“We really pushed the online side of things and that’s where our business grew very well in the past two to three months,” Stover said.
Business has not been without its challenges, though. Global shipping delays have made it difficult to maintain a consistent supply of beans.
Systemic issues of importation and customs navigation will indurate the bean shortage, Stover suspects. Prices, in turn, will climb. Look out, he said, for some of your favorite beans to become a rare commodity.
“We may see certain beans being unable to be obtained or have a much lower volume imported in the United States,” he said.
John and Carmen Rice are The Plant’s newest business owners. Their brewery is set to open in early 2021. The brewery’s name is, of course, an initialism, but to learn its meaning inquisitors must visit the taproom in person, John Rice said.
Rice made his career as a pharmaceutical researcher specializing in drug discovery, cell biology and yeast physiology, but his foray into commercial brewing has been decades in the making.
“This will be my first venture into the business of brewing,” Rice said, “but I’ve been a home brewer for three decades.”
He has watched the craft beer scene develop from a niche interest into a sweeping trend.
“Back in the late ’90s,” Rice said, “we were thinking, ‘10 microbreweries? There’s no more room for any more microbreweries.’ Now there are more than 300 microbreweries in North Carolina. So, you know, I was wrong — there seems to be plenty of room.”
After years of deliberation, Rice decided in 2019 that it was finally time to ditch his career in research and pursue his lifelong passion. Then the coronavirus pandemic broke out.
“With the pandemic, things have slowed down,” Rice said. “Beer sales are down across the state and some of the small microbreweries are struggling. We’ll wait and see what happens. We won’t be open until next year and hopefully by then we’ll have a vaccine and things will start picking up again.”
After pandemic fears have abated and lingering restrictions have been lifted, the local beer industry will emerge stronger than ever, Rice said. He expects microbreweries to continue their subversion of the industry’s major players.
“It seems like the business is going toward a more local approach where a local taproom is a good viable business but the bigger breweries, particularly the well-known — Miller, Budweiser and all of them — are only growing through acquisition,” Rice said.
Rice is eager to capitalize on the fertile market before it saturates, and he thinks Pittsboro is the perfect place to do it.
“Local seems more of a solution than trying to prod into downtown Raleigh,” Rice said. “We like the idea of just being local, supporting Pittsboro, and Pittsboro supporting us.”