Albemarle council approves incentive agreement for new downtown brewery

The Albemarle City Council on Monday night approved a performance incentive agreement for a craft beer startup company that is planning to locate in the former fire station behind City Hall.

The brewery, which will most likely be called Uwharrie Brewing Company, is slated to open sometime in the first quarter of 2022, said owner Colton Baker, who has many years of brewing experience in the Asheville area.

Though not from Stanly County, Baker’s family owns a house on Lake Tillery.

“So we’ve been in the area for six or seven years and as we hung out, we looked for things to do in downtown and a brewery seemed like something that would be really awesome to have that we just didn’t have in the area,” Baker said.

Under the agreement, the city will provide the fire station, which has been empty for several years, at no cost to Baker. He will be responsible for repairing the building, which has a roof leak, some mold on the second floor and some structural damage. The estimated cost to repair the building is $450,000.

Baker’s father, Bert Baker, is financing part of the project including the repair and upfit of the building. He recently purchased the former Belk building in downtown and the family plans to open an additional business in the near future.

Baker is planning to invest $1.2 million in the business, including $550,000 for manufacturing equipment along with a woodfire pizza oven. The brewery plans to initially employ five people with a goal of hiring up to 16 people over a five-year period.

As part of the economic incentive agreement, Uwharrie Brewing will pay $25,000 for the parking lot across from the building. Albemarle Downtown Area Revitalization will provide a 100 percent tax break on the value of improvements to the building for the first five years, worth approximately $38,000.

Annual sales are projected at $575,000 in the first year, with an increase to $1.6 million by the fifth year. The economic impact of Uwharrie Brewing over 10 years is projected to be more than $7.2 million.

By providing the fire station to Baker, the city is projected to save between $150,000 to $400,000 by not having to expend funds to demolish or repair the building.

Uwharrie Brewing plans to double manufacturing capacity at the facility within three years, which would add an additional investment of roughly $400,000.

“Thank you for taking the time to come and look at our beautiful city,” Councilman Benton Dry told Baker, who was in attendance. “The diamond in the rough that you’re moving into, that’s been the best kept secret for many, many years.”

Following a motion by Dry, the council approved the agreement on a 6-1 vote, with only Councilwoman Shirley Lowder dissenting.

Baker said the goal is to close on the building within the next two weeks and then begin renovations.

Another taphouse, Badin Brews, is planning to open at 124 S. First St. in the near future.

“In my three and a half years of working in economic development as the main street manager, a brewery has been at the top of the list of businesses we’ve wanted to recruit to downtown Albemarle,” Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation Director Joy Almond said on Tuesday. “I appreciate the forward thinking of our City Council to leverage municipal property to make this project come to fruition. The Baker family has been wonderful to work with, and I appreciate their investment in our community.”