Investing in breweries pays off for Mills

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Rocky Mount Mills Development Manager Evan Covington Chavez poses on April 15 at Rocky Mount Mills.


Staff Writer

Monday, June 24, 2019

So where does Capitol Broadcasting see investment in breweries in the Rocky Mount Mills evolving as the campus reaches capacity?

And what is the Raleigh-based company’s plan and where do they see the Tar riverside location fitting in with the fabric of North Carolina’s craft brew scene? And given the brew businesses on the campus are incubators, would the company let them go or let them relocate elsewhere on the grounds?

The former cotton mill site had long been dormant in the aftermath of the collapse of North Carolina’s textile industry. Capitol Broadcasting stepped in as the purchaser with the vision being for a mixed-use development — but the brew businesses and the restaurants are the immediate eye-catchers.

Evan Covington Chavez, development manager of Rocky Mount Mills for Capitol Broadcasting, said the idea behind the incubators was Rocky Mount Mills would be able to give start-up brewers an opportunity to get off the ground without the hassle of real estate or capital rates for the equipment.

“We never really intended for everyone to stick around,” Chavez said. “We did hope that people would see this as the jumping-off point and either grow bigger at the mills, find another space within Rocky Mount or go back to their hometown.”

Chavez noted each of the breweries on campus has their own business model.

“Some of those business models are very much about being able to produce a lot of beer and get it into stores,” she said. “And other business models are about producing a smaller amount of beer but really being able to drive those sales that are in the tap room.”

She said given this is an incubator, Rocky Mount Mills would like to see breweries grow and expand on campus or move elsewhere — and would like to see new breweries continue to develop and see the mills as a place where they want to establish their first location. 

And she noted the leases are designed so after a period of three years, the brewer can either renew the lease or move on to another location or grow somewhere else on campus.

“And right now, we’re basically in the first or second year of those leases,” she said. “So, it’s to be seen what will happen in the next evolution of this when the breweries start to re-up their leases.”

Chavez emphasized Rocky Mount Mills partnered with Nash Community College from the get-go because of the community college’s program to prepare people for a variety of careers in brewing, distillation and fermentation. The program is offered through the community college and practiced through Rocky Mount Mills.

Chavez also said Rocky Mount Mills is working with the N.C. Brewers Guild to offer week-long and weekend-long workshops for brewers large and small that will be coming out this autumn.  

And she said as a result, “Ideally, the mills itself becomes a hub for breweries to learn, whether they’re starting up or trying to hone in certain skills.”

As for where Capitol Broadcasting sees Rocky Mount Mills generally fitting into the North Carolina craft beer scene, she said, “Being one of the hubs, probably the only one in the eastern part of the state for breweries to get together and share experiences, to learn from one another, to learn from experts in the fields – and do special events as part of that.”

“So, whether it’s an incubator on campus or another brewery that’s in eastern North Carolina, that they would come out for those sorts of things throughout the year,” she said.

As for developing the scene on campus, she said, “I think what people can expect to see more of this year is promotion around breweries at Rocky Mount Mills being a thing.”

Specifically, she said she means promoting the breweries as a whole and as a collective brand, along the lines of “The Rocky Mount Mills breweries” versus an individual brewery.

“The breweries are at a place where they’re all established and ready to get out into the public more,” she said. “And we are ready to sort of make that announcement, given that we’ve got the facilities for everything else that comes along with enjoying a brewery — and that is food and overnight stays and such,” she said.