You might remember the refrain from the old Tennessee Ernie Ford song. Maybe your grandfather sang it to you. The key lines went like this:
You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.
Have you ever asked yourself what a company store is? And what does it have to do with Charlotte in general and NoDa in particular? I went searching for the answers.
NoDa residents and business owners Scott Linsley and Joey Hewell are two of the hardest working men in Charlotte. Linsley is the owner and broker at Janus Real Estate company. Together, they co-founded the NoDa Farmers’ Market and Hewell serves as the market’s manager. They co-own and operate an urban farm known as Linwell Farms. And both men have made numerous appearances for a variety of Charlotte media outlets.
Despite all these endeavors, this busy couple is preparing to introduce NoDa and the rest of Charlotte to an entirely new concept known as The Company Store. Here’s what you can expect, in their words.
(1) What is The Company Store all about?
The Company Store will be located at 3221 Yadkin Avenue in a former duplex home built sometime around 1905, according to tax records. It’s located just behind Smelly Cat Coffee. We plan on being open for the first gallery crawl this year, scheduled for March 4.
The NoDa gallery crawls will come back after being dormant for a few years. They will be held on the first Friday of each month. The Company Store will be a combination of things: an art gallery and store, beer and wine cafe and event space.
(2) What is a “company store” and how did you come up with the concept for your business?
In the past, company stores were mercantile and general stores located near a mill or mine in industrial towns and villages. They serviced the workers and their families from those places and were most often owned or run by the mill or mine company.
Workers could make purchases on credit through vouchers or other forms of payment – this would then be deducted from the upcoming paychecks. The song “16 Tons” from the 1950s by Tennessee Ernie Ford described this unique mercantile system.
(3) What is your design concept for the building?
We wanted to bring out the character and history of the building to complement the character and history of the neighborhood — a character dating back to the early years of the textile mills here in NoDa and the mill village that developed around them.
Much of the duplex was already opened into one unit, so we just updated the bathroom with period tile and fixtures, refinished the floors keeping the layers of paint and stains from over the years, used lots of reclaimed wood, fixtures and other elements.
The large heart pine beams that are the front porch railing, the side bar in the gallery, and the table top at the family table are all from the new NoDa Brewing building on North Tryon Street, where they had to remove some of the second floor to make way for their large brew vats. The wooden components of the bar top are the studs that once were part of the walls inside the duplex itself. The decor reflects the period decor from those earlier years, with a modern twist.
(4) How does a “company store” fit with the history of NoDa?
It’s a nod to the textile mills that were the catalyst for development in this area. There were mercantile stores, hardware stores, etc., back then in “North Charlotte” as it was called. We wanted to pull from that history and create a space that could have easily been in business in 1910.
(5) What will you offer to eat and drink at the store?
We’ll offer local beers on tap — the neighborhood breweries — plus North and South Carolina craft beers in bottles and cans. We’ll also have wine by the glass or bottle, from really affordable to celebration night priced.
We’ll also have a mimosa bar from time to time with fresh juices and fruits. We won’t be preparing any food and will not have a kitchen. But we will have small bites to grab like hummus, dips, chips, nuts, olives and pickled items plus a good selection of cheese, meats and charcuterie.
Also, we’ll have Local Loaf baguettes, croissants and sweets. We are also a great venue for pop-up dinners and have already been in talks with a couple groups that host these, as well as some local chefs. Generally, food will be more in the snack category, with plenty to choose from if you wanted to stop by for a bottle of wine and a bit of food. We’ll also have food trucks from time to time and may make it a regular thing in the back lot — though that is still early in the planning stages.
(6) How will the store fit in with the existing restaurants, bars, music scene and arts venues of NoDa?
I think we’ll blend pretty seamlessly. We won’t be open too late, closing at 9 or 10 p.m. most evenings, unless we have a special event. I see our place as being an afternoon stop, after work locale or place to visit on the weekends.
We will offer a very casual and laid-back atmosphere to hang out, chat with neighbors or neighborhood visitors and we’ll also be a place to try a variety of NoDa area breweries’ various craft beers.
I think we’ll fit a niche that isn’t really here at the moment, with a lot of outdoor seating and mingling spaces from the front yard, side yard, front porch and back deck. I can see folks stopping in for a beer or glass of wine and checking out some artwork, on their way to dinner at one of the local restaurants or before a show at the Neighborhood Theatre.
(7) Will we still get to visit the outdoor arts market?
Yes! The Eclectic Marketplace will still operate on Saturday mornings and afternoons (starting again in March).
(8) Anything else you’d like readers to know about The Company Store?
The parking lot in the back will be available for events and we plan on having quite a few. Small live music festivals, food trucks, pig pickins, Pet Palooza – things like that.
(9) With the busy lives that you guys lead, do you find time to sleep?
We are actually homebodies, plus most of what we do is within a block or two of our house, so we don’t waste much time commuting!