As a modern-day business owner, there are quite a few draws to opening shop in downtown Wilmington. For one, it’s unrelentingly scenic: rain, shine and especially sunset, the river provides the perfect backdrop for time spent supporting local stores and restaurants. As well, the central business district is teeming with foot traffic. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects is the opportunity to secure a space with such rich history within our three-century city.
Many storefronts share a varied account of what once was: auto shop, boutique hotel, seed and feed. As for the gray and red Queen Anne-style building on the corner of Fourth and Campbell streets, outside of downtown’s CBD, it is about to witness its next identification.
Constructed in 1907 by contractor R. H. Brady and architect Henry E. Bonitz, the structure housed both the North Fourth Street Farmers’ Market and a fire house. When the fire department moved to Princess Place Drive in 1977, the space was filled by Wilmington Boxing Center until 1999.
Now, 18 years later and in the heat of summer, the edifice is seeing big changes behind its large wooden doors. Outfitted with a 20-barrel, three-vessel brewhouse, and renovated to include a large bar and a loft, the next chapter for 604 N. Fourth Street will begin in Edward Teach Brewing.
“It’s actually eligible for a black plaque from the Historic Wilmington Foundation because it’s over 100 years old now,” brewery owner Gary Sholar tells. As we stand amidst sawdust, his vision for the future becomes clear: “wide open doors, dog-friendly, laid-back.”
Sholar’s industrial background connects him to the large brewhouse, while his six-year homebrewing hobby fuels the passion. His career is manufacturing food-processing equipment out of a company he owns in Wallace.
“We do equipment for Butterball, Tyson, Perdue, Smithfield, Mt. Olive Pickle, and so on,” he explains. “In my line of work, we do this everyday: install industrial equipment by ourselves. With that, I thought, If I brew at home, might as well make it big. This is going to be a fun project for me.”
A lease was executed on the roughly 10,000-square-foot building two years ago, and Sholar says they should close on the building in early August. While other local breweries moved swiftly in construction after getting the keys, Edward Teach Brewing saw the bulk of its progression in recent months as Sholar was able to dedicate time alongside his career. “I wanted to secure a property,” he tells, “but this is a hobby more than a money-maker for me.”
For the name, Sholar relied on Edward Teach’s connection to the area. Better known as “Blackbeard,” the pirate embodies the spirit of coastal North Carolina, having shipwrecked Queen Anne’s Revenge in Beaufort, just two hours north, before settling in Bath, NC. In 1718 Stede Bonnet and his pirates took on the Royal Navy in the Battle of Cape Fear River; Bonnet’s ship, Royal James, was a former Blackbeard flagship.
“I wanted to have something that was close to Wilmington and the coastal theme,” Sholar declares. “We actually ran a contest for naming the brewery through Penguin 98.3 FM, and we offered $1,000 to the person who came up with our name. I actually had thought of Edward Teach, and we had several people suggest that name for the contest, so it was kismet.”
As well the pirate name lent itself to the design of the namesake. In the middle of the building now stands a bar that resembles the side of a ship. A curved bartop culminates in a pointy bow while the mezzanine level overlooks both the downstairs bar and the brewhouse.
“I wanted to incorporate a ship into the design but I didn’t want it to be too Disney,” he tells. “I wanted clean, subtle lines. I also wanted it to be intimate. When you walk in, even if there are 15 or 20 people in here, I want it to feel full.”
Artist renderings of the space and logo design were provided by The Brandit, a boutique graphic design company based in Hampstead, NC. While they support a variety of industries, the company’s work includes breweries across the country. Locally they’ve designed logos and beer labels for White Street Brewing in Wake Forest, NC, and Virginia’s Blue Mountain Brewery. “I had not heard of them before this project, but The Brandit specializes in marketing for beer companies, and they have been great to work with,” Sholar adds.
Despite the size of the building, the bar design will offer Edward Teach Brewing a welcoming and approachable comfort for craft-beer drinkers in the Cape Fear. Sholar believes atmosphere and lower price points will shape their niche in Wilmington’s ever-expanding brewery market.
“We’ll do six flagship beers to start with,” he notes, expecting an IPA and a lager to make the initial list. “We’ll do some seasonals as well. We will serve a limited menu, which is to be determined, because we’re also carrying wine.”
Sholar knows of one brewery goal he certainly has in mind: distribution. The brewhouse is large enough to support a great area of bars and restaurants—and naturally Sholar will focus outside-sale efforts in coastal North Carolina to begin. The team will be rounded out by two brewers.
“I hired a retired head brewer, Jim Holden, from Labatt Brewing Company in Canada,” Sholar shares. “He and his wife relocated, and they’re here for a while. Jim will be consulting, and we’ve got a guy who will become our full-time brewer after Jim leaves. Erik Peterson is from Bull Durham Beer Co.; he’s indigenous to Wilmington and wants to move back.”
Until the first pint is served, there are a few more items to check off, though Sholar says working with the Historic Wilmington Foundation has been smooth sailing. His and their mindsets, to get the building back to its original façade, are on point.
“It has not been an arduous task whatsoever,” he tells. “They have an easement to the outside of the building; whatever we do on the inside is our business. But they’ve been great to work with. The front doors and windows will be replaced. We’re going back to clear glass because, obviously, opaque glass wouldn’t have been available when this was first built.”
While the brewery is still in construction at time of press, Sholar expects construction on Edward Teach to finalize at the end of August. Water lines were run in the beginning of the month, where the crew added in dog water fountains for the first and second floors, confirming the relaxed social atmosphere. Doors should open in late summer. Other business owners in the Brooklyn Arts District (BAD) are excited for further revitalization of North Fourth Street (NoFo), including Scott Wagner of the neighborhood watering hole Goat and Compass.
“With the addition of Edward Teach Brewing to the BAD and NoFo area, along with Flytrap Brewery, Bottega Art Gallery, and anchored on the north end of Fourth Street by Palate bottle shop, we look forward to the spotlight being shown on the growing north side of downtown,” Wagner shares. “We’re glad businesses see the value of NoFo that we saw when we opened our doors 10 years ago. For the longest time we felt like we were on an island, and we’re thrilled to see other businesses coming into the neighborhood. We’re starting to wonder whether BAD stands for Brooklyn Arts District—or Beer and Arts District!”
Sholar appears just as thrilled to be a part of the movement in NoFo, invigorating new life to a historic building that sat empty for so many years. Being directly across Campbell Street from the Brooklyn Arts Center, he expects the area to flourish with weddings, events, and regular Saturday evening fun. “I’m glad the city is behind it,” he adds. “It’s pretty interesting to see everybody come together for a collective effort.”
Edward Teach Brewing is located at 604 N. Fourth St.