New Beer Shop and Taproom Illustrates Recent Growth in Graham

New Beer Shop and Taproom Illustrates Recent Growth in Graham

Just a few years ago, Barrel & Bottle might have seemed out of place. The new beer shop and taproom sits just a block away from the historic courthouse at the center of downtown Graham.

With microbrews on tap, a live music space and a crowd that trends younger, the bar feels a stylish dive you’d find in one of North Carolina’s bigger cities. To the uninitiated, anyway.

The reality is that Graham is changing. And Josh Coe’s new collaborative effort with Greensboro’s Little Brother Brewing could be in just the right place at the right time.

Before Barrel & Bottle

Barrel & Bottle isn’t Josh Coe’s first venture into the world of beer and bars. It’s not even his first in Graham.

Up until a week ago, the space at 106 W Elm St was known as Beer Co. That bottle shop was the second iteration of Coe’s popular Greensboro bottle shop by the same name.

Entrance to the Graham beer shop Barrel & Bottle
Image courtesy of David Straughan.

But Coe’s story with bars goes back even further than Beer Co, which opened in 2015. In fact, it goes back even before he was born.

“My dad has been a bar owner for many years,” said Coe. “He gets them running and usually sells pretty quickly.”

Coe said that it was his father that originally got him into the bar business. “He offered to open a bar together in downtown Burlington several years before I started Beer Co.,” he said. “I was off the road at the time with the bands I toured with and needed something new. It was perfect timing.”

Beer Co.’s original Greensboro location on W. McGee St.
Image courtesy of Beer Co.

After Coe opened Beer Co., there was no turning back. He said that he has been able to use his own strengths to build on what he learned from his father.

“He’s full of knowledge when it comes to legality and lease agreements,” said Coe. “He was in law enforcement and has dabbled in real estate. He’s taught me everything I know about business. My strong suit is everyday operation, product knowledge and events.”

Why a specialty beer shop in Graham?

The Alamance County seat has a population of just over 15,000. That might make the decision to open a beer shop in Graham seem a little perplexing. However, if you ask Coe, Graham was exactly where he wanted to be.

“The location,” he said, when asked why he chose to locate his beer shop in downtown Graham. “Our landlord is a killer guy. That paired with the location was a no-brainer.”

Image courtesy of David Straughan.

The Burlington Metropolitan Area (which includes Graham) is currently enjoying a small boom. In North Carolina’s 2020 Commerce Tier Rankings, Alamance ranked 6th out of all 100 counties for population growth. Its growth rate of 6.44% was nearly twice that of Guilford and Forsyth Counties, which are home to Greensboro and Winston-Salem respectively.

Coe explained that Graham is attracting younger people and businesses in part because of the dramatic increase of the cost of living in the Triangle.

According to RentCafe, the average rent in Raleigh is $1,238. In Graham, the average rent is $889, about 70% of Raleigh’s cost. With its proximity to both the Triangle and the Triad, and more people working from home, it’s not hard to see why the area is growing.

“The fact that the Triangle is getting too expensive is a huge advantage to us,” he said. “Graham has a ton of potential to grow.”

Coe says that a growing millennial population can be a boon for businesses in cities like Graham. “Millennials spend money on the daily and usually support local,” he said. “This is a huge advantage to small communities that welcome them.”

Looking to the Future of Barrel & Bottle

Barrell & Bottle’s soft opening was a private event on a cool October evening. The Qspresso food truck showed up. It featured live music from Burlington’s Drew Foust and Jive Mother Mary’s Mason Keck, showing off the space’s potential as a music venue.

Drew Foust and Mason Keck play music at the Barrel & Bottle soft opening.
Image courtesy of David Straughan.

Were it not for the ever-present facemasks, one could almost forget the elephant in the room.

“That’s almost impossible to answer in this climate,” Coe said, when asked about future plans for Barrel & Bottle. “We would love to book a ton of music and throw sone killer events. But…we shall see.”

As the threat of a COVID-19 resurgence grows worse, it would be easy or even reasonable for business owners to start to panic. But not Coe.

“Luckily, our industry has been good,” he said. “People need beer no matter what is going on. So, for us it hasn’t been much different, besides making sure we are following the guidelines and being safe.”

What’s in Store for Graham?

The spread of COVID-19 may once again throw bars and restaurants into a state of flux. However, Coe says the future of Graham’s business community is looking bright.

“Tons of growth,” he said, when asked about what he sees in the town’s future. “The sky is the limit. I love the other business owners in Graham and want to see more coming in.”

Coe says that part of the reason he feels so confident is the nature of the town’s business community. He explains that business owners in the town by and large support one another.

“We have a uniquely cooperative community,” he said. “I don’t see any of them as competition. More like family.”

Coe says that that tight-knit sense of community makes the town just the right place for his business. He’s pretty sure others will feel the same way when they see what Graham has been up to.

“Give us and other Graham business a visit,” he said. “You won’t be disappointed.

Looking for more things to do in the NC piedmont? How about a farm where you can pick your own hemp? How about some haunted attractions?