__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

Volume 15 • Issue 4 April / May 2021

Real Estate

BOOM

Over $1.6 Billion In Sales During 2020

Beech Mtn at 40 | Charles Hardin | Surviving Covid | Breakfast April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

A


DIANNE DA V ANT &ASSOCIATES Margaret Handley,

ASID

Dianne Davant Moffitt, ASID Pamela McKay, ASID Priscilla Hyatt Councill,

Banner Elk, North Carolina 828.963.7500 Stuart, Florida 772.781.1400 davant-interiors.com B

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

ASID


A FRIEND AND NEIGHBOR TO SMALL BUSINESSES HERE IN THE HIGH COUNTRY

1399 Blowing Rock Road, Boone | 828.264.5244 200 Wilkesboro Avenue, N. Wilkesboro | 336.667.9211 piedmontfederal.bank


1,800 ACRES

75° AV E R A G E T E M P.

4,949 FEET ABOVE SEA LEVEL

THE HEIGHT OF

LUXURY LIVING Linville Ridge, a luxury country club community near Blowing Rock, boasts award-winning golf, tennis, sophisticated dining venues and social events to fill every calendar. With home opportunities ranging from cottages to custom estates, at The Ridge the possibilities are endless. Call to learn more or schedule a private tour.

Models open daily | From $1,375,000 | LinvilleRidge.com | 828.742.4130

2

HI

Home and community information, including pricing, included features, terms, availability and amenities, are subject to change, prior sale or withdrawal at any time without notice or obligation. Drawings, photographs, renderings, video, scale models, square footages, floor plans, elevations, features, colors and sizes are approximate for presentation purposes only and may vary from the homes as built. Home prices refer the or 2021 premiums, unless otherwise indicated for a specific home. Nothing on our website should be construed as legal, accounting or tax advice. Sotheby’s G H CtoO Ubase N T price R Y ofMthe A house G A Zand I NdoEnot include Apriloptions / May International Realty® and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered service marks used with permission. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.


$

7.1

Billion Total Company Sales Volume 2020

The No. 1 Brokerage in Sales Volume throughout the region $323 million in sales volume

93%

Above Market Average Sales Price (Blowing Rock)

61%

Above Market Average Sales Price (Banner Elk)

260%

Above Market Average Sales Price (Linville Ridge)

315 Dutch Creek Extension | Banner Elk, North Carolina | PremierSothebysRealty.com

For those who seek an exceptional life Your home is more than a building or an address. It’s where you experience life, connection, and growth. The real estate company you choose to represent your property should be as exceptional as you are, and as your next chapter is going to be. In North Carolina, only Premier Sotheby’s International Realty offers unrivaled service and limitless opportunities. If you are thinking of selling, now is the perfect time. Call us today for a private consultation at 877.539.9865.

Asheville | Banner Elk | Blowing Rock | Charlotte | Lake Norman | Linville Ridge Sotheby’s International Realty® and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered service marks used with permission. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity. Property information herein is derived from various sources including, but not limited to, county records and multiple listing services, and may include approximations. All information is deemed accurate.

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

3


4

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


Windwood Home & Home Décor Fabulous Furniture at Fantastic Prices Huge Selection

9,000 Square Feet

Large Selection of

Lamps, Chandeliers, Mirrors & Wall Art

of Furniture from Traditional to Eclectic

Stone Top Bathroom Vanities

Open Mon. - Sat. 10:00-5:30 | 828.295.9600 7531 Valley Blvd, BLOWING ROCK | Located in the Food Lion Shopping Center Visit BRASS EXCHANGE HOME located in Charlotte at the Arboretum Shopping Center April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

5


FRO M T H E PUB L ISH ER

A Publication Of High Country Press Publications

Editor & Publisher Ken Ketchie

Art Director Debbie Carter Advertising Director Jeffrey Green Ken Ketchie

Is That a Light at The End of the Tunnel?

I

t’s hard to not talk about the 900-pound gorilla that has been trampling through our lives for over a year now. We’ve all had plenty of frustrations to talk about, and there’s hardly a conversation when it doesn’t come up in some form. So, here we are a year later. 365 days ago, the High Country along with most of the nation and a large part of the world had gone into lockdown, as everyone was trying to figure out what the new virus thing meant. In North Carolina, it really started hitting home on March 10 when the Governor announced a State of Emergency that began a wave of Executive Orders that would effectively shut down almost everything. App State students never came back from their spring break. Public schools sent everyone home and began trying to figure out how to keep teaching. Churches were empty at a time when they were needed most. The main streets in Boone and Blowing Rock were deserted. I remember it was no problem getting out of our office parking lot onto the usually bustling Highway 105 without seeing a car either way. It was eerie! Here at High Country Press, we had to cancel our April and June magazines, which was weird, but like everyone else — we really had no choice. Businesses were closed, owners were nervous, and revenues had come to a standstill. We kept our website up and going as we saw our web visits increase dramatically. Everyone was looking for information and trying to figure out what was going on. Our emails were filled everyday with the latest cancellations and updates from government and health care officials. New Executive Orders from the Governor showed up every few days. It was scary, and no one knew what was going to happen next. Finally, on May 5, the Governor began a phased re-opening. That’s when entrepreneurs began rolling up their sleeves and did what they do best — survive. The community rallied around businesses as best they could by ordering takeout meals from restaurants and buying locally as much as possible. And the government stepped in to help with financial assistance through their PPP program and emergency SBA business loans. As summer kicked in, people from off the mountain started showing up here to get away from urban settings and to get outdoors for some fresh air and recreation. With the crowds came concern about the spread of the virus. But most people wore masks and kept their distance and avoided crowds. It wasn’t perfect, but it allowed small businesses to start seeing some cash flow. Then real estate took off, and that meant businesses associated with housing suddenly were having record breaking sales months. As summer progressed, vacation rentals started filling up all across the High Country, and they have been pretty much booked up right through the ski season when record breaking numbers of winter visitors filled up our towns. It’s a year later, and the gorilla is still stomping around the room. Maybe we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Certainly going into this summer season, things are much better than last year at this time. I think we all have our fingers crossed! 6

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

Contributing Writers Nathan Ham Hailey Blevins Sherrie Norris

on the cover

Todd Bush - Our cover this month was photographed by Todd Bush. The picture was taken at Linville Ridge Country Club and depicts the excitement of a record breaking year of home purchases in the High Country. The resort areas have seen an unprecedented interest in their properties. You can see more of Todd’s photography by visiting his website at: bushphoto.com.

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE P.O. Box 152, Boone, NC 28607 828-264-2262


Between Boone & Banner Elk 9452 NC Hwy. 105 S

828.963.4144

Linens.com

dewoolfson

MASKS AVAILABLE :: DISTANCING OBSERVED :: LIMITED OCCUPANCY :: CALL FOR CURBSIDE PICKUP


Calendar of Events APRIL 2021

16

17

Beech Mountain Wildflower Hikes, Beech Mountain Wildflower Hikes meet at the Buckeye Recreation Center at 10 a.m. It’s $3 per person. For details and to sign up, call 828-387-3003 Boone Winter Farmers’ Market, get your hands on seasonal fresh vegetables and storage crops, locallyraised meats, eggs and more at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center located at 252 Poplar Grove Road starting at 9 a.m. Admission is free.

18

Boone, The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country Screening of “Cured” - “Cured,” a multiple award-winning documentary film illuminating the pivotal but largely unknown chapter in the struggle for LGBT equality, will be screened online by the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country at 3 p.m.

23

Beech Mountain Wildflower Hikes, Beech Mountain Wildflower Hikes meet at the Buckeye Recreation Center at 10 a.m. It’s $3 per person. For details and to sign up, call 828-387-3003.

24

24

Boone Winter Farmers’ Market, Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center located at 252 Poplar Grove Road starting at 9 a.m. Admission is free. West Jefferson Farmers’ Market, fresh, locally grown produce, nursery plants, homemade baked goods and handmade crafts will be available at the covered, openair market located on the backstreet beginning at 8 a.m.

26 Watauga Community Recreation Center’s Opening Day

MAY 2021

8

1

Town of Beech Mountain’s 40th Birthday Party

1

Boone Farmers’ Market, this event located at Horn in the West beginning at 8 a.m. features a wide array of vendors offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, breads and more. Admission is free.

1

West Jefferson Farmers’ Market, open-air market located on the backstreet beginning at 8 a.m.

1

Boone, Hickory Living History Museum High Country Spring Rendezvous, Learn what crafts and activities settlers in the North Carolina backcountry would have been doing during the spring months. See craft demonstrations like spinning and weaving or try period food and drinks prepared in the same fashion as the settlers of the 1700’s. Located at Horn in the West, this event is at 10 a.m. and admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under.

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

7-8

Appalachian State University Commencement Ceremonies

8

Boone Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West beginning at 8 a.m. Admission is free.

8

West Jefferson Farmers’ Market, located on the backstreet beginning at 8 a.m.

10-12

Appalachian State University Commencement Ceremonies

15

West Jefferson Farmers’ Market, located on the backstreet beginning at 8 a.m.

15

Boone, Hickory Ridge Museum Tryon’s War Event, Celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the 1771 Battle of Alamance and the Regulator Movement. Located at Horn in the West, there are different time slots for this event, and admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under.

15

Boone Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West beginning at 8 a.m. Admission is free.

20

Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market, this market is located at Park Avenue off Main Street in front of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.

21

Watauga County Schools Last Day of School Year

22

Blowing Rock, Art in the Park, Enjoy arts and crafts from award-winning and acclaimed artisans from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. at Park Avenue, come rain or shine, and admission is free.

22

Boone Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West beginning at 8 a.m. Admission is free.

22

West Jefferson Farmers’ Market, located on the backstreet beginning at 8 a.m.

23

Blowing Rock, Concerts in the Park, free outdoor music concerts that offer entertainment for the whole family. Bring a lawn chair or blanket to Memorial Park on Main Street to enjoy the entertainment. Concert begins at 4 p.m.

26

Blowing Rock, Celebration of the Town’s Birthday, The Blowing Rock Historical Society will host the Town of Blowing Rock’s 131st Birthday Party (postponed from March) at the Gazebo in Memorial Park. The Chamber will also host a ribbon cutting next door for the grand re-opening of the 1888 Museum beginning at 4 p.m.

27

Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market, this market is located at Park Avenue off Main Street in front of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m.

28

Watauga High School’s Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony

29

Boone Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West beginning at 8 a.m. Admission is free.


April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

9


mountain

echoes

Local Farmers’ Markets Ready For Spring W

Banner Elk School. The market takes ith spring officially here in the place each Thursday from 4 p.m. until High Country, vendors at lo6:30 p.m. cal farmers’ markets will begin selling “We have a good number of vensome of their finest produce, meats and crafts to residents and visitors alike dors; we’ll start out with four or five who love the experience of shopping and then build on vendors according for locally sourced items. to when their produce or whatever The Watauga County Farmers’ Marthey are selling gets ready,” said Boniket at Horn in the West has opened ta Smith, who is a vendor herself. “We each year since 1974 and provides do have spaces for weekly vendors high-quality products from the first that would like to try it out and see Saturday in May through the last Saturhow it works.” Smith said they are still accepting day in November. Matt Cooper is the President of the Watauga County Farmers’ Market will be opening May 1. vendor applications. Those interested can call her at 828-387-0420 or call the Watauga County Farmers’ Market, and Agricultural Center in Newland. She he is excited for the upcoming year said they are really looking for some with popular vendors returning and vendors that make bread because brand new vendors ready to share their there has been a growing demand products with market visitors. from customers for bread products. “We are a membership of around “We had a tremendous market last 60 vendors that are made up by food year. We had people we had never seen producers, crafters and horticulturalbut know they will be back. They could ists. We will have handcrafted wood get outside; they weren’t confined to products like utensils and bowls. Proa building, and they could find a lot of duce wise, you are going to see all what they wanted,” Smith said. of your good spring greens, onions, The Blowing Rock Farmerr’ Market will be opening May 20. The Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market radishes and mushrooms. You can has set its opening day for Thursday, also get all of the meats that you like,” May 20. The market is open each ThursCooper said. Other products will include handday from 3-6 p.m. on Park Avenue in Downmade leather items, ceramics, pottery, town Blowing Rock and will sometimes bird houses, Appalachian-made crafts and feature live music as well. metal products. Suzy Barker, the Blowing Rock ChamCooper pointed out that the farmers’ ber of Commerce’s Events and Commumarket is one of the few places where you nication Specialist, said that they are also can still see live music. Typically, there is a still accepting applications for vendors and musician playing each Saturday, beginning anyone interested should call the chamber at 9 a.m. and playing until around noon. at 828-295-7851. “Our local High Country customers are “The Blowing Rock Chamber of Comwhat makes our farmers’ market thrive. merce started this market years ago as The local people are giving their dollars to an initiative to bring people into Downlocal businesses. We appreciate our seatown Blowing Rock. You can shop on Main Street and then shop on the way home sonal homeowners that come and treat and pick up some produce for dinner that this place as their second real home, and evening or fresh flowers for the weekend. we are grateful for them, and we love the We think that it adds to that extra touch of tourists that have the ability to find out living in a small town,” Barker said. where we are and come and hang out, Each farmers’ market will continue to and if they can grab something, then abide by all COVID-19 protocols including that’s great, we realize some of the stuff is The Avery County Farmers’ Market hand sanitizing stations, social distancing hard to travel with,” Cooper said. “You are will be opening April 22. and face coverings. helping out 60 local businesses around By Nathan Ham Watauga County and the contiguous counties.” The Avery County Farmers’ Market is set to open on April 22 at the Old 10

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


COME HOME TO THE HIGH COUNTRY LIFE

170 Woodthrush Way: This comfortable 4,062 sq. ft., 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath residence sits on almost two acres of land. Open beams and natural trims contrast smartly with light colored walls and stone for a clean, rustic aesthetic.

901 Clubhouse Drive, Unit A-1: This condominium is updated and move-in ready! Includes 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, custom cabinetry throughout and furnishings. All you need is a change of clothes and your toothbrush.

131 Meadowlark Lane: If you love to entertain, this is the home for you. Sleeps up to 13! Great for parties all year round. Four bedrooms, 5 baths in a 4,521 sq. ft. floor plan. Outdoor living space includes a pizza oven and hot tub. This home has 5 fireplaces!.

133 Summit Ledges Lane: This is a beautiful updated 4,210-square-foot home with 3 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and spectacular High Country views. It doesn’t get better than spacious living surrounded by the mountains!

375 Summit Park Drive: One-of-a-kind custombuilt retreat with 5 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms. A full 9,470 sq. ft. of architecturally inspired design features and comfortably spacious living with stunning views of nature.

603 Elk Knob Drive, Unit D-2: This property provides all the comfort and convenience of the High Country condominium lifestyle. Three spacious bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms for weekend stays to year-round living.

490 Clubhouse Drive, Unit G-2: Lovely 3-bedroom, 3-bath well-maintained condo overlooking Elk River's Signature Jack Nicklaus Golf Course. Enjoy lush views and living near your favorite pastime too.

215 Hickory Court: Three bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and exquisite interior spaces are surrounded by incredible mountain views and multilevel decks with which to enjoy them. Includes a hot tub and sauna!

659 Clubhouse Drive, Unit F-1: If you’re looking for immediate gratification, this 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom 2,116-square-foot condominium in the Elk River Club is furnished and has been remodeled. Move-in ready!

Tricia Holloway . Engel & Völkers Banner Elk . 610 Banner Elk Highway Banner Elk . NC 28604 | Office: +1 828-898-3808 . Mobile: +1 561-202-5003

Learn more at bannerelk.evrealestate.com

©2021 Engel & Völkers. All rights reserved. Each brokerage independently owned and operated. Engel & Völkers and its April / May 2021 HIGH independent License Partners are Equal Opportunity Employers and fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act.C O U N T R Y M A G A Z I N E

11


mountain

echoes

Performing Arts Groups Plan and Prepare for Summer Events

2021

Local High Country residents and visitors will have something to look forward to this summer as plans for performing arts events are currently underway. One highly anticipated annual arts festival is the Appalachian Summer Festival presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts & Cultural Programs. Appalachian Summer Festival’s 2021 season is scheduled for July 2-31, and the performing lineup for artists will be announced soon, but there will be an eclectic mix of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and film programming featured similar to previous years. Appalachian Summer Festival personnel have gotten creative for this year’s performances, and they will be offering a variety of kinds of venues such as indoor, outdoor, in-person and virtual at all different price points to keep the events accessible for everybody.

Indoor events will be held at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, with some of them being accompanied by free or minimal charge live streams or virtual components. Outdoor events will take place at the State Farm Lot, which is new this year, and even an event at Kidd Brewer Stadium is in the works. Interested viewers can look for ticket sales and programming specifics in early May, but be ready because ticket sales will go fast, as there will be reduced and limited seating at the venues due Hayes AuditoriumBroyhill and Theatre to social distancing measures for everybody’s safety. Another group that is preparing for what is to come this summer is Lees-McRae College Summer Theatre, which has been providing high-quality, professional theatre to the community and summer visitors of the area as well.

Todd Bush Photography Serving the High Country with Premier Scenic, and Commercial Imagery for over 25yrs Scenic photos available at Banner Elk Artists Gallery in the historic BE elementary school near the heart of town

bushphoto.com 12

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

828-898-8088

banner elk nc


They have announced that they will be showing two great musicals for the 2021 theatre season. The 2021 Lees-McRae College Summer Theatre season, which is its 37th season, will include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, directed by Gabriel Vanover; and America’s Artist: The Norman Rockwell Story (an original story written about the artist Norman Rockwell by Dr. Janet Barton Speer and John Thomas Oaks). These shows will be presented during June, July and August in Banner Elk at Hayes Auditorium in the Broyhill Theatre on the LeesMcRae College campus. More information about the specific dates and times of the performances can be found online, and ticket sales will open in May, as they prepare for the live performances starting in June. Live main stage theatre and children’s shows will also return for Ensemble Stage, a professional theatre located in Banner Elk. They are currently completing casting and receiving final word on some rights approvals, but they are planning on presenting three main stage productions and two children’s shows. Production dates are set for June through October, with more information regarding show titles and ticket sales also coming soon. While not necessarily in person, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country in downtown Boone is also finding innovative ways to hold events, as they are currently hosting online content and broadcasts, but are booking shows in the theatre for late summer and fall. On March 26, 2021, Governor Roy Cooper’s recent Executive Order 204 raised theatre seating capacity limits to about 150. Unfortunately, that capacity is too small to make many of The Appalachian Theatre’s events financially viable. In the meantime, while The Appalachian Theatre continues to remain closed to the public, personnel are working to adapt the theatre to meet the recommendations of the CDC and local health officials. The Appalachian Theatre’s website is the best way to receive current, up to date news on events and ticketing. Overall, Appalachian Summer Festival, Lees-McRae College Summer Theatre, Ensemble Stage, The Appalachian Theatre and other performing arts groups are working hard to prepare for the upcoming summer season while keeping in mind COVID-19 protocols, and staff are asking for the public’s continued patience and support as everybody is finding ways to navigate through the pandemic. Above all, these groups are looking forward to being able to hold events for everyone’s enjoyment. By Harley Nefe

CARLTON GALLERY Celebrating 39 Years

Spring Group Exhibition “May Your Soul Blossom with the Beauty of Art”

May 29 – July 15 Opening Reception: May 29, 11am – 5pm

SOCIAL DISTANCING PRACTICED PAINTINGS • CLAY • GLASS • SCULPTURE • WOOD • FIBER ART • JEWELRY Located 10 Miles South of Boone on Hwy. 105 Grandfather Community

TUESDAY-SATURDAY 10:00-5:00 • SUNDAY 11:00-5:00

Call or check our website for information on 2021 Workshops

82 8 -9 6 3 - 42 8 8 www.carltongallery.com • carltongallery@carltongallery.com

CONNECTIONS THAT KEEP YOU GOING...

and memories that last a lifetime. Go stay connected wherever you travels take you this spring. Have confidence in your coverage with Carolina West Wireless’ nationwide high-speed network. In-store, online, or on our My CWW app— we’re here to keep you connected.

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

13


mountain

echoes

Justice Dorm Makes Way for New 700 Room Dorm

T

The history of Justice Dorm he latest building project goes back to the early days of the now underway on the camcollege campus. The first building pus of Appalachian State was located on the southern side University is a new 700 room dorm of campus and faced north. The that is being constructed on the dormitory could hold up to 100 site of the former Justice Dorm. students, and in 1931 a wooden It’s part of the university’s major Justice Hall Annex was constructhousing project that will renovate or replace seven residence halls: ed behind it to hold 90 more stuBowie, Coltrane, Eggers, Gardner, dents. Winkler, Justice and East. The building was torn down and replaced by the second JusThe plan calls for replacing nearly 1,800 beds and will be tice Residence Hall, built 1952. adding 200 to 400 more. They Justice Hall is a four story also plan for better and more efbuilding that housed around 300 students, according to Associate ficient parking. Vice Chancellor for Finance and This $191 million project is Operations Matt Dull. part of the Recreational Village The dorm was known for its described in the Master Plan Artist’s rendition of the New River Hall complex that large two person dorm rooms 2025. Current plans are to proreplaces Justice Dorm just off Rivers Street . and communal bathroom facilivide between 2,100 and 2,200 beds of student housing in three ties. Also the flight of 100 stairs Hill and Raven Rocks after two Blue Ridge phases, with completion dates of fall 2020, fall Parkway overlooks, and the other named Lau- on the front facing part of the dorm that led 2021 and fall 2022. rel Creek Hall for the creek that runs through from Rivers Street to the front entrance of the building. In the late 1970s the top floor housed Construction is in full progress now for New App State campus. River Hall which will replace Justice Hall, which “Things are progressing on the design the ASU football team so the dorm had a repuwas demolished during summer and fall 2020. nicely for the building and we’re still looking tation of being the “jock dorm.” The development of the entire project All of the new residence halls will be at just under 700 beds in this building. So a named after natural or scenic areas on campus rather large building, the largest building of is planned in three phases, with completion dates of fall 2020, fall 2021 and fall 2022. and in surrounding areas. the four,” said Matt Dull. First-year and upper-division students In a construction update podcast recorded The demolition of Justice Hall was a part of in February, App State Associate Vice Chan- the public-private partnership between App who wish to stay on campus in an environcellor for Finance and Operations Matt Dull State, private developer RISE and nonprofit as- ment that promotes their academic and persaid that a building naming committee “really set manager Beyond Owners Group to replace sonal success will benefit. wanted to help connect students to really sce- seven longtime residence halls with four new Foundation work for New River Hall began March 4 as the development entered phase three. nic and natural places in the High Country.” residence halls. The other buildings are named Thunder By Gianna Holiday

The demolition of Justice Dorm took place during summer and fall 2020. 14

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


of Blowing Rock

Let's go shopping!

1179 MAIN STREET B LOWI N G R O C K , N C 8 2 8 . 2 9 5 .070 8 shop online!

monkeesoolowingrock.com @monkeesbr photo by Andy Bilinski

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

15


Proudly Offering

NON-STOP FLIGHTS TO

ORLANDO & ST.PETE-CLEARWATER Year-round service to Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) and seasonal service to St.Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) from May 28 - August 16.

BOOK NOW triflight.com 16

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


original style | trellis lace April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

17


Jay Vincent

Tricia Holloway

Leah Grove

Sarah Whitfield

Jim Brooks

Bill Aceto

Steve Lambert

Todd Rice

Tim Carter

Erik Lanier

Marsha McManus

Lou Morrison

These REALTORS Tell The Story That No One Saw Coming Editor’s note: We interviewed 12 realtors that members of the High Country Association of Realtors and these are the stories they told about the 2020 real estate boom that saw record sales totals and properties sold in the High Country.

T

he last year has been one to remember for the record books if you are a part of the real estate industry. More area homes were sold in 2020 than during any other year on record, according to the year-end real estate report by the High Country Association of REALTORS®. Real estate professionals in the four-county area saw sales increase by 51 percent from 2019 with $1.596 billion in sales, a record high, in a year marked by a national pandemic, historically low interest rates and North Carolina becoming a top destination state for people looking for a new home. By the end of 2020, despite an ongoing pandemic from one side of the globe to the other, the number of homes sold in the High Country was a 25 percent increase from 2019, and the sales value increased 48 percent, according to data from the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which records all transactions in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. “One thing is for certain: the wealthy bought a lot of homes in the High Country in 2020. 163 homes sold for over $1 million, of which 26 were over $2 million and of which four were over $3 million. Those numbers are almost exactly double over 2019, which was a record year. Home prices skyrocketed from an average of $311,511 in 2019 to $401,725 in 2020, an increase of 21 percent,” said Erik Lanier, who is a Broker/Realtor at Keller Williams High Country Realty and owner of the READReport. Statewide, North Carolina was ranked among the top 10 in

population growth in 2020, adding potential new homebuyers to a market that was already crowded with folks looking for vacation homes. Other data numbers indicate just how busy the real estate market was in 2020. The median price of a home in the four-county region increased from $240,500 in 2019 to $285,000 in 2020. Even in December, a month that is notorious for smaller sales numbers, a total of 289 homes were sold for $124 million with the median price of a home sitting at $325,000. Jay Vincent, owner of Vincent Properties, who got out of the military in 1969 and has been in real estate for 44 years, said that he’s never seen anything close to this in all of his over four decades of work. “We had boom times in the 1980s and early 1990s. There were times in the early 2000s when you could just throw darts and make money, but nothing like this,” Vincent said. “As I see it, it’s people wanting a safe haven mountain getaway out of the cities, and so, many have determined now that they can work from home.” An example that Vincent mentioned was a property at Valle Landing that they listed three weeks ago at $599,000. It had multiple offers almost immediately. “We had another one on the edge of Ashe County that was $325,000 and ended up getting offers for $367,00. They paid $205,000 for it two and a half years ago. The offers were sub-

There has never been a year

like 2020

18

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


Real Estate

Boom

A Year Not Soon Forgotten By Nathan Ham

stantially over the listed price,” Vincent said. “When you have multiple offers, that’s a headache for a realtor because someone is going to walk away unhappy.” Along with houses selling at a recordsetting pace, land sales are hitting highs that haven’t been seen in 15 years. Across the four counties served by the High Country Association of Realtors, a total of 1,144 tracts of land were sold, valued at $110.3 million in 2020, which are both record-high totals. “At one time in our MLS, we had 3,500 lots for sale. Now we have about 1,500 lots for sale. Land is selling, farms are selling, appraisers are booked up, lenders are covered up. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Vincent said. “Residentially, there is a serious shortage of inventory. Good, quality builders are slammed, and more are not accepting work until mid-summer. You can’t get any work done with a surveyor,

ties were listed for sale. At the same time in January of 2020, there were 1,227 residential properties for sale. About the only thing that didn’t sell at a record pace in 2020 were commercial properties. In 2020, 30 commercial properties sold for $13.47 million, the fewest number of commercial property sales since 2015. In Watauga County last year, there were 1,426 homes sold worth $596.16 million, an increase of 16 percent in 2019 in terms of total homes sold and a value increase of 41 percent. The median price of a home sold in Watauga County was $340,000. “When COVID-19 hit, we did not know what was going to happen. We are unique with our diversification as we are both in sales and property rentals. We didn’t know if people would be able to pay rent,” said Todd Rice, co-owner of Blue Ridge Realty in Boone. “On the real

Record Breaking Sales, Rising Prices, Low Inventory & Solid Financing and attorneys are covered up with their paralegals trying to do title searches and do closings. Home inspectors are covered up, and appraisers have to be diligent in finding good comps. With values escalating so rapidly, how do you find a good comp?” Overall, 2021 began with the few number of residential listings in the High Country MLS in recent memory. In January, just 496 residential properties in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga coun-

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

19


The Path from 2006 to 2021 Steve Lambert Talks About the Journey Real Estate Has Taken From 2006 Until Now

S

teve Lambert has 39 years of real years trying to wade through excess inestate experience in the High ventory and firm up prices.” “The national real estate market Country. Currently working at Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in slowly began to recover around 2013, Banner Elk, he has been a part of several but it was to be much slower here in the highs and lows in the real estate industry. High Country as so much of our housing is second homes. Mort“I started working for gage loans were much the Robbins Family at more regulated and getthe Elk River Club when ting a mortgage loan it was being developed in from a Low of from a bank involved 1982 and worked there more strict requirements for a decade. A great than when the marexperience and wonderket collapsed in 2008. ful family to work for; I Banks were not only learned a lot from what being more strict with they were doing, applyTO their loans to home buying those lessons to deers, but also to contracvelopment work I would tors and land developers later undertake. I left that had previously been Elk River and started my buying land and creatown company, Elk Valley ing communities such as Properties in about 1992 and continued that for 23 years. Premier Eagle’s Nest.” “There were certain communities in Sotheby’s came into town in 2015 and asked if I would join them, and ultimate- particular that you could look at and they would have 50 or 60 residential listly, I decided to do so”, Lambert said. He has his own set of distinct memo- ings and you wondered how low those ries from over the years, including the markets would have to go to find buyunfortunate real estate collapses that ers. There was a lot of caution out there. were experienced, not only locally, but From 2009 to 2015, it was very bad. Finally, it began to turn around and get nationwide. “Over the years, I witnessed Black more stable locally in 2015. The banks Monday in 1987, when the stock mar- found it difficult to get money out in the ket lost 20% in one day and then the dot market with all new regulations implecom crash of the late 90’s, followed by mented since 2008. That started to ease the crash of 2008. Of course, right be- a bit in 2017”, Lambert explained. “A fore the crash of 2008, the banks were reason for confidence in the current marloaning money to anybody with a pulse. ket lies in the fact that the banks are beWe in the local real estate industry were ing more cautious than back in pre-2008 doing great, making good money. I re- days. They are making people jump member one of my clients, who had just through all the hoops to qualify. Many of bought a house in 2006, putting it back my customers are cash customers, having on the market after owning it a short done well in the stock market with their time. His mother was in real estate in investments, that they just pay cash. But California, and she said he better get if you do get a loan the rates are pheout as soon as possible. He and his wife nomenal, and I don’t see there being this were both physicians so I thought they big bubble being created by people who would weather a downturn in comfort. I really shouldn’t have been given a loan. didn’t grasp the severity of the collapse They really are qualified for those loans. but his mother did, and he got out. We Of course, a large number of people who local realtors then spent the next few are buying now, are buying with the idea

Real Estate Sales $428 Million in 2010

$1.6 Billion in 2020

20

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

estate sales side, when June and July hit, we did not stop all the way through New Years. The last six months of the year were the busiest I’ve ever seen, and I was here for the 2006 boom. I think this was busier.” Rice has noticed that many of the homebuyers in Boone have been of a younger demographic that are very techsavvy and are working remotely. “We’re seeing a lot more people in their 30s and 40s than we had 10 to 15 years ago. They’re coming up here with their laptops and strollers with young children. It used to be the demographic

“I don’t think the High Country is a secret anymore.” was 10 or 15 years older than what we are seeing now,” Rice said. Rice’s business partner, Bill Aceto, has noticed that with this influx of buyers from outside the High Country, many local buyers are unfortunately being priced out of the market. “There is a huge demand for that professional entry-level house. For example, professors moving here looking for that house,” Aceto said. Leah Grove, a realtor and the office manager at Echota, said she wasn’t sure what to expect in the condominium market as COVID-19 arrived in the High Country. “Once things started opening up, we immediately saw the demand. The inventory that I had during shutdown was quick to go,” Grove said. “We started back in the office Memorial Day Weekend and prior to that, we had been watching our web traffic really carefully during shutdown to see if people are looking. We did have a few transactions during true shutdown, and people were buying sites unseen. I had people saying to take them off the market and that they didn’t want to just sit there, as nobody could come look. I said, ‘You need to stay there. I’m watching my web traffic, and we have people all over the website.’ I think a lot of that was everybody was at home. What are you going to do otherwise? You’re sitting there thinking maybe I could get away or maybe if I had that condo I could go work up there, and the kids could get away.” During 2020, there were 450 condo


A Month by Month Review of 2020

L

Erik LaniErik Lanier keeps meticulous sales and data records for real estate in the High Country. His READReports is a system of information to assist Real Estate Professionals and related professionals.  READReports track all Real Estate sales and Real Estate related loans in the High Country and is a useful tool for Appraisers, Real Estate Agents, Banks, and Contractors. The READReports also can provide qualified leads to service businesses such as medical professionals, retailers, restaurants, contractors, and anyone else seeking to reach new residents.  Call 828-963-3798 for more information.

Real Estate Sold in 2020

Monthly• Overview Report Watauga Avery ª• Ashe Counties All Counties Year to Date From the READReport

Units Description

$ Volume

2618

Houses

$ 1,051,905,525.00

118

Mobile Homes

$

649

Condos

Average

% of Volume 65.88%

$

9,095,500.00

0.57%

$

401,797.37 77,080.51

$

160,724,500.00

10.07%

$

247,649.46 371,530.43

115

Townhomes

$

42,726,000.00

2.68%

$

306

Land

$

77,257,500.00

4.84%

$

6,452.99

1336

Lots

$

69,910,200.00

4.38%

$

23,234.21

439

HERL

$

75,040,500.00

4.70%

$

72,785.32

136 81

Commercial Other

$ $

105,931,000.00 3,999,500.00

6.63% 0.25%

$ $

778,904.41 49,376.54

5798

Total Sales

4451

Last YTD - %Change

$1,596,590,225.00

100%

$

275,369.13

$1,059,109,285.00

51%

$

237,948.61

23

Home Foreclosures

Home Average $ Per Sqr Foot

34

Total Foreclosures

Average Home Days on Market

3500

House\TH\Condo Total

Top 5 States of Origin 4261 NC 837 FL 245 SC 76 TN 46 VA

$1,264,451,525.00 $ Volume

79.20% % of Volume

$183.98 129 $361,271.86 Average

$1,102,676,224.00

69.06%

$258,783.44

$253,775,500.00

15.89%

$303,196.54

$70,512,000.00

4.42%

$287,804.08

$32,150,500.00

2.01%

$423,032.89

$24,626,500.00

1.54%

$535,358.70

Top 5 Non-Local Cities of Origin in NC % of NC Volume 334 Charlotte $123,198,500.00 11.17% 199 Raleigh $59,511,500.00 5.40% 85 Greensboro $33,777,500.00 3.06% 88 Cornelius $25,767,000.00 2.34% 59 Chapel Hill $25,677,500.00 2.33%

per acre

December - 2020

ast year turned out to be one of the strongest sales years ever recorded for real estate in the High Country, despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Erik Lanier who is a Commercial Broker/Realtor at Keller Williams High Country Realty and owner of the READReports keeps meticulous sales and data records for home sales in the area and had some fascinating info throughout 2020. Prior to the first positive case of COVID-19 in the High Country in March, there were already some solid sales numbers for January and February. The total sales in January alone in the High Country tallied up to be $59.3 million higher in 2020 than in 2019. Even high end resort land, which typically isn’t a big seller in the winter, saw 20 purchases take place for approximately $4 million in value.  High-end lot sales continued strong in February with 18 sales valued at $3.1 million. Total sales numbers were not as strong in February as in January, however as the sales exceeded the total in February of 2019 by $17.3 million.  The first positive COVID-19 case hit the High Country in March, however as Lanier pointed out in his data, it usually takes anywhere between 45 to 60 days to close on a home, so any slow down from March would not show up in the data until a month or two later. The average price per square foot of a home in March was $186.50.  The first sign of a dip in sales hit in April when 2020 sales reached $54.8 million, a 29 percent decline from 2019 when real estate purchases totaled $77.1 million. Ashe County experienced  40 percent decline and Avery County had a 53 percent decline.  May sales totals also took a hit compared to 2019. There were $54.9 million in sales this year which ended up being a 40 percent decline from the 2019 total of $91.6 million. Land sales were hit hard in May as well with only 407 total acres selling, however the price per acre did rise from $5,695 in 2019 to $8,805.25 in 2020.  In June, realtors got their first signs of a quicker recovery than expected when sales from the month were $7

Average $368,857.78 $299,052.76 $397,382.35 $292,806.82 $435,211.86

Lender Market Share Top 7 - All New Loans incldg Re-finance Loans

Lender

627 Lifestore Bank 317 Truist Bank

$ Volume

% of Volume

April / May 2021

$173,419,257.00 $109,693,851.97

Average

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

8.96% 5.67%

$276,585.74 $346,037.39

21


The Path from 2006 to 2021 Cont. of renting on VRBO or Airbnb, so will potentially have income from the property.” On the construction end of things, the new banking restrictions were a game-changer following the 2008 crash. “There was a lot of inventory being created right before the 2008 crash because the banks were giving construction money with very little thought to a builder’s capability to manage his business. You had builders who had been building one or two houses at a time, and all of a sudden, they were building eight and they couldn’t manage it. They were out of control, but the money was easy and so nobody asked a lot of questions. Suddenly, banks tightened up and everything started to unravel. So, a lot of the builders went bankrupt and a lot of early phase developments were lost to the banks.” said Lambert. “Here in the High Country, we began to see some really good, solid recovery in 2017. We started feeling good and could

do a normal amount of business, with plenty of inventory. I still wasn’t seeing any appreciation, but prices were no longer falling. They were firming, but they weren’t rising. People would ask, ‘What do you see happening with the prices?’ I could not, of course, promise appreciation if they made a particular investment, but I saw much less downside risk than before.” said Lambert. “Now the inventory has been reduced to record lows and we’re in a market where you’ll have two or three offers as soon as you list a property. As I recall, February sales prices in High Country MLS were 98% of list, with many places selling above list.” “Finally, those of us in the business wonder where we’ll find inventory. Material costs, particularly lumber, are sky high which dampens the enthusiasm to build speculative product. Without a doubt, this is going to be interesting to follow the remainder of this year.”

Homes That Sold in the Last Year

$7,200,00000

3 Bedroom • 3.5 Baths • 4,209 Sq Feet • On 545 Acres • Built in 2019. Among the most breathtaking mountain estates ever available in the NC High Country, a magnificent & rustic home on 545+ acres with waterfalls, trails, views, etc. Sold through Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Vincent Properties 22

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

sales in the High Country, and 100 of those were at Echota. That has driven pricing up 15 to 20 percent, according to Grove. “What we have continued to see is almost all of my buyers are from North Carolina. We see them as people that are looking for a drive-to getaway,” she said. “I think the shutdown has brought us back to the basics of entertainment. If you’re fishing, going for a walk, you step back from all of those mainstream activities. I’ve seen people doing puzzles, things that were long gone, forgotten activities. Simple enjoyment is what it seems like.” By the fall of 2020, Echota had sold its inventory,

“We’re seeing a lot more people in their 30s and 40s than we had 10 to 15 years ago. They’re coming up here with their laptops and strollers with young children.” and there are already waiting lists full of people waiting on new condo construction that recently started. “I’ve never had zero listings before, and that happened this year. We didn’t have the supply to keep up with the demand,” Grove explained. In Alleghany County, 249 homes were sold in 2020, compared to 176 homes sold in 2019. Those home sales last year added up to $41.12 million, with a median price of $184,000. “The amazing thing to me, given the length of time that I have been in the business, is we have always had a little bit of Florida activity up here, but mostly it was Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, then it got to where we’d have a few people from Raleigh once in a while and even as far away as Wilmington. But over the last five years, people are moving here from all over the country, and that’s just amazing,” said Lou Morrison of Mountain Dreams Realty, Inc. in Sparta. “We have really good fiber optic service here, and I think COVID-19 has brought about the ability for people to work from home. They don’t have to work in Charlotte and Raleigh. They can do their business just as easily from a place like this. It is truly small town America here. It changes the county demographics with the influx of people, but basically it’s very positive, I think.” Ashe County saw 541 homes sold during 2020, which is an increase of 97 homes from 2019. The value of the homes reached $153.1 million with a median sales price of $265,000. Tim Carter, the broker in charge and co-owner of Peak Mountain Properties in West Jefferson, has been in real estate for 27 years and had a front row seat to the 2005 and 2020 housing booms


million more than in 2019. There were 85 total lot sales, 15 more than in May and 18 more than in June of 2019. Lot prices climbed as well, reaching an average of $28.545 per lot, an increase from $16,893 in May. Sales began to really boom in July. A total of $152 million in sales were recorded during the month, an increase of 69 percent from last July. This was also the largest sales volume ever recorded for a single month. Avery County had a massive increase of 145 percent from 2019. The average price per square foot of a house took a big jump from $174.09 in June to $199.91 in July.  August sales totals blew by July with $185.4 million, an increase of $33 million from July and an increase of $75 million from August of 2019. Inventory numbers really started to shrink, however, and construction costs climbed to $213.17 per square feet to build a home. The average price of a home in the month increased to $415,801, a jump of $70,000 in two months. Over 1,000 acres of land was sold during this time.  With summer coming to an end, the booming real estate market showed no signs of slowing down. In September, for the third straight month, a new alltime record was set for sales in a single month. A total of $212.5 million in real estate sales were recorded, an increase of $27 million from August and an increase of $112 million from September of 2019.  October’s sales totals surpassed September, yet again setting another record. This time, $232.6 million in sales were recorded, and it pushed the total sales for 2020 over $1 billion with two months left to go. During the month, 26 residences sold for over $1 million and five residences sold for over $2 million.  Sales dropped a little in November down to $178 million, but that was still a 46 percent increase from November of 2019.  December sales totals more than doubled the total from 2019 with $186 million in sales, an increase of 106 percent. A total of 22 homes sold for over $1 million and five homes sold for over $2 million.  Overall for 2020, sales were 51 percent higher than 2019 and totaled

High Country Real Estate Sales Analysis

2020 – The Year of the Fear

OVERALL: There never was a year like 2020 in High Country Real Estate. I was

Broker in Charge at the busiest office in the High Country during the mid-2000’s run up, and even though the numbers were similar (inflation adjusted), a lot of that period was based on greed and a desire to flip. This was heavily based on fear. Sales were 51% higher than last year with $1.596 billion in sales! That is over a halfbillion more than 2019. The majority of that came in the last six months. The trepidation early in the year from the fears of a virus and business destruction soon gave way to a mad rush for property outside of the major urban areas for fears of civil unrest. Once the riots started at the end of May, things exploded. Giving 45 to 60 days for “looking” to closing and it played out as expected. This, combined with incredibly low interest rates, set up a perfect storm which could end at any time. A very heated political situation can cause even more affluent flight, or an economic or dollar collapse could severely limit people’s purchasing power. But there is one thing for certain; the wealthy bought a lot of homes in the High Country in 2020. 163 homes sold for over $1 million, of which 26 were over $2 million, and of which four were over $3 million. Those numbers are almost exactly double over 2019 – which was a record year already. Home prices skyrocketed from an average of $311,511 in 2019 to $401,725 in 2020 – an increase of 21%. The average price per square foot increased from $172 to $184 – but this is a relatively “small gain” because 2019 had already gained $23 per square foot over 2018.

2021 Year to Date January and February were also significantly stronger in sales than 2020. The first two months saw 861 sales compared to 623 in 2020. This equates to $258.5MM in sales volume compared to $173.7MM in 2020 - a 45% increase. So far this year, the average home price is $439,871 compared to $342,989 in the same time last year. The price per square foot is $199.73 versus $163.56 last year. Unfortunately, rising construction costs will offset many builders’ hope for profits for speculation houses. Most land types are also 35% to 45% higher than last years numbers. Commercial is lagging far behind with $13.48MM in sales versus $33.27MM in 2020 for the first two months - the difference made up in home sales.

Sincerely, Erik Lanier

$ 900,000,000

Overall Real Estate Sales for Watauga County 2001 to 2021

$ 675,000,000

$ 450,000,000

$ 225,000,000

$

-

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

Graph of overall sales for Watauga County 2001 to 2021 - Not inflation adjusted April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

23


Real Estate Market Briefs We Asked Our Panel of Realtors to Tell Us About Segments of the Market

Blowing Rock with Jay Vincent

T

he small village of Blowing Rock gives residents and visitors a quiet mountain escape away from the hustle and bustle of Boone. Jay Vincent, owner of Vincent Properties, shared his input on why Blowing Rock is different than the other surrounding areas. “Blowing Rock lends itself to driving here, parking your car and getting out and walking. The town has done a good job in general of not letting it explode into Boone and has a quaint, village feel and people can walk the streets, eat ice cream, shop, go into restaurants and enjoy the park. We are surrounded by National Park Service land on three sides,” Vincent said. “There’s just so little inventory in Blowing Rock and in the entire market. There are just so few choices in Blowing Rock in what we might classify as affordable. The definition of affordable in Blowing Rock is different than the definition of affordable in Boone, Banner Elk or West Jefferson. I would say anything under $1 million is affordable. More seven-figure properties have sold in the last 15 months than maybe in history in Blowing Rock.” This major boom in the housing market has allowed for some high-dollar properties to be sold that have not been able to sell at other points in time. “We have had a property just a couple of miles out on 221 that we have worked with for a couple years and this market came along and it sold for $4 million cash, a residential property with 116 acres,” said Vincent. Vincent feels like Blowing Rock brings more permanent residents making housing purchases than in some other places in the High Country. “In Blowing Rock we have a few more permanent retirement people that live here year-round. Most of these people that can come in here and afford a nice seven-figure home probably have one down on the coast somewhere or down in Florida. Some of these people have four and five houses,” Vincent said.

24

Boone

Banner Elk

Beech Mtn

with Marsha McManus

with Jim Brooks

with Todd Rice and Bill Aceto

B

oone is the largest town served by the High Country Association of Realtors and has experienced a real estate boom and inventory shortage as much as any other area in the fourcounty region. “There is a huge demand for houses in Boone. We have developers in Raleigh that if provided access to the right land and city utilities, they could build homes in the high $200,000s, low $300,000s that would sell before they are even completed. Right now there are six houses currently for sale in the Boone city limits,” said Todd Rice, one of the managing partners at Blue Ridge Realty. Rice along with the other managing partner, Bill Aceto, have both noticed the same trend of people coming to the High Country and being able to work remotely. “We have clients from all over the southeast that have come here and stayed here. They are looking for slightly larger homes, homes that have maybe a bonus room or an office, space where they can work from,” said Rice. “We were seeing, prior to COVID, a trend of smaller homes and cottage homes. The pendulum is swinging back the other way now where the buyer wants a little more space because their families are here, they’re doing online school, they’re doing Zoom meetings with their work, we have been busy in that aspect.” Having the inventory is going to continue to be an issue in Boone. “I think we have another 18 to 24 months of a very solid market with high demand and low inventory,” said Aceto. “There is demand for affordable professional housing, it would be good for the High Country. Development can be done in a tasteful way where you have sidewalks and streetlights and you can do it in a way that is in harmony with the local community. Development doesn’t have to be a bad word.”

Jay is the Owner of Todd & Bill are Managing Berkshire Hathaway Brokers/Owners at HomeServices Vincent Blue Ridge Realty and Investments H I G HProperties COUNTRY MAGAZINE April / May 2021

H

ouses in Banner Elk have vanished off the market almost as quickly as they were listed, similar to every other town in the High Country. “Prices started going up and there was more demand with less inventory as the year went on, it’s still that way not, it’s not changing. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Marsha McManus, a realtor with The Summit Group Real Estate. “The hometown, small town feel is a big selling point for Banner Elk. It’s such a great community and a wonderful place to live.” McManus first moved up here in 1979 to attend Appalachian State and has been a realtor for 16 years. She has seen the many things that Banner Elk has to offer compared to other areas of the High Country. “I think Banner Elk has been a very desirable area all awlong. Boone and Blowing Rock are very different than Banner Elk. Banner Elk is more of what I typically think of as a resort community. We’ve got ski slopes, the Blue Ridge Parkway just minutes away, and we’ve got whitewater rafting. Everybody has come up here to play. When COVID hit, they realized they could work here in this beautiful environment and could go hiking and take a look at what their quality of life was,” McManus said. Most of the buyers that McManus has seen are in their 40s and 50s and are working corporate jobs that they can do from home. “A lot of my clients are from the Carolinas and Florida. They all wanted to be up here where they felt safe. People can get outside and hike, bike, go to Wildcat Lake and get on the Blue Ridge Parkway,” she said. Most of the houses have went up in price to the point where houses in the high $200,000 to low $300,000 are almost impossible to find.

Marsha McManus is CoOwner of The Summit Group with Alison Phillips

B

eech Mountain is a resort community celebrating its 40th birthday this year. The town has always been a popular tourism destination, and now the small town has been caught up in the same real estate boom over the last year that has hit in Boone, Blowing Rock and other areas. “A lot of people don’t know there are about 2,500 homes and condominiums here but there are also about 3,000 vacant lots,” said Jim Brooks, owner of Beechwood Realty. “All we are doing are re-sales, nobody is doing any spec building. Right now there are 17 homes and condominiums for sale, I have seen it as low as 12 recently.” According to Brooks, there were 197 homes sold in Beech Mountain over the past 12 months. In years past, the numbers were nowhere near this high. “We have been used to a pretty good sized inventory here with more homes than Blowing Rock. I think Blowing Rock has about 1,500 we have about 2,500. During the recession that number swelled up, we usually had about 225 homes and condominiums to sell but we only sold about 55 a year and the prices went down. A house price went from $315,000 to where I could sell it for $215,000,” said Brooks. Lot purchases and building permit increases have also been something that Beech Mountain has seen over the last year. “Folks are buying lots again, I didn’t hardly carry any lots in my inventory, I’m selling lots all the time now. I’ve got folks waiting in line for lots. Hopefully the rest of the people that want to sell will have somewhat of a better inventory this summer,” said Brooks. “I think you will see people coming in here to build. Building permits were up this year at one point in time we had 11 building permits. At one point we only built three houses a year up here.”

Jim Brooks is Realtor/ Broker/Owner of Beechwood Realty


“You saw some of this happening in the 05-06 time period as far as market activity, but what we saw that is a little bit different this time around is in 05-06 it was a general incline build to a certain level of activity. Here, it just jumped from about April 2020 and exploded at that time,” Carter said. “I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. When this started with COVID-19, I told my wife, ‘I’m just not sure where this will end.’ I’ve got to admit, I never would have dreamed it would have exploded like it has. We’ll just try to ride the wave as long as we can.” The telecommuting aspect of employees being able to work from home has been a game-changer in Ashe County similar to how it has been in the three other counties included in the High Country Association of Realtors. “The great thing that Ashe has and Alleghany, Watauga and Avery, is that Skyline extended fiber optic into all the rural areas. Because of that, having high-speed internet is a big plus for the area. That is what has driven a lot of people to this section of North Carolina,” Carter said. “Crossing over into Virginia, your internet connec-

tions are not nearly as good. I think that is one of the big factors people are looking at, how can I telecommute from work, and what is available to me. That is an unsung thing that Skyline was able to do that has really helped the real estate market.” The lack of new home construction and

the outcome is going to be with people not knowing what the price is going to be,” Carter explained. Avery County had the second most home sales behind Watauga County in 2020 with 712 residential properties going off the market, which was an increase of 29 percent from 2019 to 2020. The value of the home sales added up to $285.7 million. “I don’t think the High Country is a secret anymore,” said Tricia Holloway, a real estate advisor with Engel & Volkers Banner Elk. “It’s nice that it is a year-round place that is not just for the summer. People are discovering that. Just in Elk River, we used to have three or four families that would come up in the winter, and now I think it’s something like 45.” Holloway said that COVID-19 was a definite contributor to the surge of yearround residents. “People that normally wouldn’t be able to work from home are finding a place to drive to on the weekends, and the family can be outdoors and doing a lot of things,” she said. Sarah Whitfield, the Broker in Charge

“When this started with COVID-19, I told my wife, ‘I’m just not sure where this will end.’ I’ve got to admit, I never would have dreamed it would have exploded like it has.” the rising material pricing has been a problem in Ashe County like it has anywhere that is experiencing this dramatic rise in real estate purchasing and investment. “The labor component is fairly static, but the explosion that we have seen in the price of materials, particularly lumber or anything wood-oriented, all of that is contributing to people not building on spec because there is no way of knowing what

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

25


Homes That Sold in the Last Year

$1,019,00000 4 Bedroom • 4.5 Baths • 4,273Sq Feet • On 5.02 Acres • Built in 1996. Spectacular views from almost every room in this mountain home. Sits on one of the most desirable streets in the Elk River Club.Sold through Engel & Vöolkers Banner Elk

Homes That Sold in the Last Year

$1,150,00000 4 Bedroom • 6.5 Baths • 5,936 Sq Feet • On 5.21 Acres • Built in 2004. Summit Park Drive is the pinnacle of luxury mountain living in Banner Elk’s premier Elk River community. This expansive home sits on 5.21-acres of land and boasts stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sold through Engel & Vöolkers Banner Elk

Homes That Sold in the Last Year

$2,300,00000 5 Bedroom • 6.5 Baths • 6,744 Sq Feet • On .84 Acre • Built in 1997. Grandfather Mountain, magnificent views, and exquisite landscaping create the setting for this spectacular Grandfather Golf and Country Club estate. Sold through Premier Sotheby’s International Realty - Banner Elk 26

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

Gated Resorts

Condo Living

with Tricia Holloway

with Leah Grove

J

L

Tricia Holloway - License Partner at Engel & Vöolkers Banner Elk

Leah Grove - Listing Broker and Marketing Coordinator at Echota

ust when you might have thought the popularity of gated community living was dwindling, the perceived safety of living behind the gates has taken on an added significance during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have an older community, we have an older clientele that was ready to downsize and move on and you had another group that had been cooped up in their homes for a few months and wanted to be able to drive to their second homes,” says Tricia Holloway a license partner with Engel & Volkers Banner Elk. “We saw a lot more people from North Carolina, Tennessee, anywhere from two to five hours away, were a big part of our clientele. They wanted to be able to drive, spend the weekend, spend time outdoors. Behind the gates, everything is there. You’re only coming for three or four nights, you just want to be able to come and park your car, play tennis, play golf, eat inside the gates and not have to drive all around.” Many of these gated communities are anywhere from 30 to 40 years old and there are still several of the original property owners that are living in these clubs. “Now we’re seeing a lot of children and grandchildren buying homes in the communities because they grew up going there,” Holloway said. Inventory for homes inside these gated communities are lower than normal. “I think we’re down to around 20 listings. Historically that has remained in the mid to high 40s. The inventory is definitely low,” Holloway said. “I think it was about people having a second home they can drive to and an environment where they can be outside and hike, ski, fish, swim, play golf and play tennis. You name it and you can do it.” There has been some new construction starting at gated communities, including a couple of new houses at Elk River Club.

eah Grove’s position at Echota puts her right in the middle of the condo action. As a Realtor for Echota as well as her role as office manager, she found herself in the middle of this boom. And like everyone else, she’s never seen anything like it. “Buyers want to be able to come up and spend a week, spend a month or spend a weekend and not have to worry about anything, and that’s what the condo market really helps to do,” said Grove. “Echota is a maintenance free community and most condos are too. You don’t have to worry about it when you’re not here. You come in, open the door and we take care of the rest. I think there is a lot of appeal in that for today’s traveler. You don’t have to worry about who is taking care of it, is the front door locked when you leave, is the winter too cold and your pipes going to freeze? We handle a lot of that ease and give you the protection to know that your property is being looked after when you are not here.” Most of the buyers at Echota have been either younger families that have been stuck at home and are “itching for a change of scenery,” or pre-retiree couples that have decided that now is the time to make this major purchase. “They are in the mindset of ‘we didn’t do this, we should have done it, let’s do it now.’ Those are generally the buyers that are paying cash,” said Grove. Buyers have also shown interest in renting their condos while they are not using them. “I am getting that question a lot more than people actually putting it on the rental program, but I think it helps them with the confidence to buy. Our rentals department is busier than they’ve ever been,” Grove said.


at Premier Sotheby’s in Banner Elk, admitted that in the spring of 2020, it was a scary time in the industry. “We were all a little worried about what this year was going to bring. It seemed as soon as our rentals opened up in June and as soon as we could start showing properties, the phone did not stop ringing and has not stopped ringing. It has gotten a little slower, but that is only due to our inventory that has gotten so low. You have people waiting to find something and waiting for that house to come on the market. I have not seen that in my career and I have been in business since 2004. It’s unique for me to see that. We have always had inventory, but this year we have not. The investors have been looking and haven’t stopped,” Whitfield said. Gated communities have seen a big resurgence as well, mainly because of the safety aspect and the appeal to be able to go out and do things without leaving their community. ”We are seeing that a lot of our buyers have this feeling of needing to be in a gated community for safety, and they fall

in love with the gated communities. The inventory behind the gates of these gated golf resorts are at an all-time low. We are seeing a lot of buyers who want to be in these communities and not have to leave. That way they feel not only their safety net, but they also have all of their ameni-

in places where they have decided they really want to be. “People love where they have invested, and people love where they are. You are seeing where a lot of buyers have come into these communities, and typically they would come up on weekends, but now they’re coming up and staying the summers like it used to be. You’re seeing a lot of activity on the golf courses and the dining facilities within the clubs throughout the week and not just on the weekends,” she said. Marsha McManus, who has been a realtor for 16 years and is the coowner at The Summit Group Real Estate in Banner Elk, said that what has been happening within the local real estate market has been amazing. “We’re not as large as Boone, but with everything that came on the market here, it sold within hours. It has been crazy. We all went into COVID-19 restrictions being at home and being safe and thinking that we are going to come out and there’s not going to be anybody around. Once the governor opened up the state in May, everybody just flooded here. Everybody wanted out of the situation they were in and wanted to be a part of the beautiful

“Once the governor opened up the state in May, everybody just flooded here. Everybody wanted out of the situation they were in and wanted to be a part of the beautiful mountains.”

may

10 - 22

S U M M E R 21

ties behind the gates, and they don’t have to go out in the crowds like dining, playing golf, playing tennis, even hiking. Several of our communities even offer hiking trails behind the gates,” Whitfield said. Whitfield thinks that a lot of the sellers realize that now is the time for them to be able to get top dollar for their house and are putting it on the market. Buyers are jumping at the chance to purchase homes

ANNIE

CAMPBELL

RICHARD FENNELL

Fine art and Framing since 1994! 828.295.0041 | brframeworks@gmail.com 7539 Valley Blvd | Blowing Rock NC | 28605 blowingrockgalleries.com |

April / May 2021

@brframeworks

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

27


Who Has Been Buying Real Estate

O

with Sarah Whitfield

ver the past year, the demographics for who has been buying homes as part of this real estate boom in the High Country has changed from what it used to be with several more state and local home purchases than those from Florida, New York and Texas. “Most of our buyers this year have been North Carolinians or within a certain drive where they can come up, spend time up here, and then if they want to rent out a home when they are not using it, they can. When June opened up at 100 percent occupancy, buyers saw that they can come up and use the house but rent it out as well,” said Sarah Whitfield, Broker in Charge at Premier Sotheby’s International Reality in Banner Elk. Whitfield has been in the real estate business since 2004 when she started working for the Sterling Company, owned and operated by her family. Her father was Hugh Fields and he handled real estate purchases for Grandfather Golf and Country Club. The company, which later became Fields and Company, was purchased by Premier Sotheby’s in 2015. In addition to the location of homeowners, particularly second home buyers, age changes and home usages have been different over the past year. “Buyers want to get out of the cities, they want to get out of over populated areas, they want to be able to get out and explore the outdoors in all seasons. They feel protected. We’re seeing a lot more year rounders, people that can work from home, people who may be from the Charlotte area being a two hour drive where someone can make an easy commute and work for a couple days and come up or work remotely. We’ve seen a younger generation buying this year I would say. Our typical buyers are retirees, but this year we have seen younger professionals; Mid 30s, 40s, not your typical second home buyer,” said Whitfield. “For a long time, we say people come up May through October and using their houses. Then we saw this sort of aging out where families started taking on houses that maybe were their parents or grandparents. So they would use the house but not use it as much. That’s when we started seeing the trend of renting the house when they were not using it. It seems like 9 out of 10 of our buyers want view, they want as new construction as possible, they want it move-in ready and they want to be able to rent it.” There are still buyers from outside of the local market. Whitfield says that most of the buyers now outside of the local region are from Florida, New York, New Jersey and the Washington D.C. area. “Buyers that would buy out west are not going out west, they are trying to find that mountain location and feel of all seasons. That’s really one of the reasons we have been discovered,” she added.

Sarah Whitfield is Broker-in-Charge for the Premier Sotheby’s International Realty Banner Elk

Homes That Sold in the Last Year

mountains,” McManus said. “I’ve been a realtor for 16 years now, I was a realtor in 2006, 2006 and 2007 during the hay day then, and we thought it was really great then, but it was not like this where we would totally sell out of inventory, and everybody would be bidding. There are multiple offers on everything.” Banner Elk is also seeing land sales increase as people continue to capitalize on the market. Those that can’t find homes they want to purchase are buying land and hoping to get a home constructed there from the ground up. “I think people are capitalizing on the market. Now is the time if you want to sell. The people that are buying these homes are refurbishing them. The older homes are now getting upgraded, everything is getting a facelift,” McManus said.

“We are totally selling out of inventory. There are multiple offers on everything. Everybody is bidding” She hopes that with the influx of new homeowners, some new businesses will start to spring up as well to keep boosting the local economy, particularly in Banner Elk. “I think it could be a draw for new restaurants and new shops. These people are here, and I don’t think they are going anywhere, or if they do they are renting their homes out,” McManus said. Resort communities such as Beech Mountain are facing residential shortages and bidding wars like never before. “I sold a home in February of last year for $255,000 with multiple bids, and it appraised for $250,000. Then I sold one in July, we listed it at $335,000. I got six offers above the list price, and it sold for $371,000 and it appraised for $350,000. The guy that bought it said ‘I will pay the difference, I’m getting a mortgage, and I will pay more down to get it because I want it, and I’m willing to pay for it.’” said Jim Brooks, owner of Beechwood Realty. There were a total of 197 homes that sold in Beech Mountain in the last 12 months, many to people that have discovered the High Country and realized what a terrific place it is to work remotely. “I worked with a lady this summer that did all of the website stuff for Estee Lauder, 23 websites that cover 43 countries. She lives in New York City, but she rented here all summer,” Brooks said.

What the Future Holds for Real Estate in the High Country

$1,850,00000 4 Bedroom • 6.5 Baths • 7,530 Sq Feet • On .99 Acre • Built in 2008. Unrestricted view of Grandfather Mountain and valley below is unsurpassed in this beautiful mountain home. Exposed timber frame beams and stone fireplaces accentuate the mountain ambiance. Sold through Premier Sotheby’s International Realty - Banner Elk 28

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

Predicting the real estate market is nearly impossible when you have to take into consideration all of the different variables that can affect the price of a house, the capital available for buyers to spend and the number of properties available for purchase. Steve Lambert has been a realtor for 37 years in the High Country and is working at Premier Sotheby’s in Banner Elk. He has compared some of the recent trends in this real estate boom with previous trends, such as in the mid-2000s, to try and get a grasp of what could happen in the future. “I don’t view this as being unique, but it’s completely dif-


Builders

I

with Bill Dacchille

t wasn’t just realtors that have been a part of the major real estate boom in the High Country over the last year. Contractor Bill Dacchille, who has lived in the area for 40 years, spent time in the 1980s as a contractor and left the business for a while, only to return to construction work about 18 years ago. His crew has remodeled several hundred houses over the years has about two years of work projects already lined up. This is unprecedented in terms of how busy it has been and how much has sold. What is interesting to me is, primarily, my clients are second-home owners. The places I do a lot of work at, the inventory is very low and they are selling everything they can,” Dacchille said. “The clients are typically from a city somewhere. While the majority are from Florida, we are doing work for people from Texas, and people locally from Charlotte and Raleigh. They come up here, they buy a house and now they want to fix it up. I get a call every day from somebody that has just bought a home and want something fixed, upgraded, changed, added or whatever. ” Building new houses from scratch is something that Bill and his staff do on occasion, but now near as much as the remodeling work. However, he is still getting plenty of calls to build homes from the ground up. “I have had calls this year for the first time in probably 10 years to build new houses in Beech Mountain, Ashe County and places where real estate tends to be a little more affordable,” Dacchille said. “We are so far out that most people don’t want to wait, and I understand that, I wouldn’t want to either. But after they call a half-dozen other builders, they get the same answer from everybody. We’re all slammed. It has been very interesting to see that dynamic. I would tell you that there are a lot of builders that are doing new homes. It’s easily a year process, some of the homes we build are two-year processes. Almost any builder you talk to will say they are at least a year behind with at least a year’s worth of backlogs, if not more.” Supply and demand has made prices for building materials continue to rise, making it harder for your typical builder to construct a new house. “We need production builders that can build affordable houses. Right now, costs are higher than they have ever been to build new. Once the whole pandemic issue is not as volatile, I think that will calm things down and once those factories can get back to producing what they used to produce, I don’t think prices will go down to pre-pandemic pricing, but I think maybe they’ll balance out a little bit,” said Dacchille. “I think we’ll have to get through the summer. Demand is high, we are getting into peak building season, that demand is going to stay high. I think for most of 2021, we’re going to continue with the higher prices.”

Bill Dacchille, Contractor, is the owner of Dacchille Construction

Architects with David Patrick Moses Architect David Patrick Moses has been just as busy as realtors and home builders over the previous year with buyers that didn’t find the exact home they were looking for and deciding to design their own property, particularly in Blowing Rock. “I have met a number of potential clients during these last few months that have spent a lot of time with realtors looking for existing homes for sale that might meet their needs, both functionally and financially. Those that did not find an existing residence decided to look for that perfect property and build a new custom designed home,” Moses said. “These clients came from Atlanta, Birmingham, St. Louis, Charlotte, Chapel Hill and High Point. Some already had lots and because of COVID had decided to build in order to leave behind the crowds in their home cities and escape to our mountain communities with fresher air, fewer people and a more relaxed lifestyle.” Moses said that a lot of these new clients in Blowing Rock have similar tastes in some of the ideas they want incorporated into their new homes. “Most all of my clients wanted their new homes to blend into the mountain surroundings with large expanses of glass, stone walls and accents, wood or wood-look siding and trim, and open floor plans for comfortable, casual living. Most wanted their home design in the typical mountain countryside style,” Moses said. “One common element that I have found interesting is that almost all of my clients wanted a large, covered/screened deck or patio (mostly decks due to the sloping terrain here in the mountains) with fireplaces, built-in grills and overhead built-in heaters. Some wanted pizza ovens in their outdoor space while others wanted sinks and undercounter refrigerators. These outdoor living areas have always been popular, but they have now taken on a completely new priority in the era of COVID. Also, many clients with existing homes have asked us to add these outdoor living spaces so they can open up their homes to nature and enjoy their time outdoors as much as possible.”

David Patrick Moses Architect, PLLC has his office at the Grandfather Center, Banner Elk April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

29


Ashe County

Alleghany County

with Tim Carter

with Lou Morrison

T

ucked away in the corner of the High Country bordering Tennessee and Virginia is Ashe County. Some residents and visitors feel like the area has not been truly “discovered” like larger areas in Watauga County and resort communities in Avery County. However, the real estate numbers show that plenty of people are finding their way to Ashe. “Basically the last six months of 2020 in Ashe County, there were 335 single family residential sales and a median price of $275,000. That same period of 2019 there were 238 sales and he median price was $228,250,” said Tim Carter, the Broker in Charge at Peak Mountain Properties in West Jefferson. “What you’re seeing too is more higher dollar transactions in the Ashe market than what has been happening before. That is one of the things that has really driven up the median price. Second home buyers are not blinking on spending a half-million dollars on a house.” Ashe County is dealing with the same shortage of inventory at almost every price point as are the rest of the counties served by the High Country Association of Realtors. “If you track the number of available homes for sale, it’s probably at the lowest point in seven years,” Carter added. “Then you have the other facet of new construction. If there is a shortage of inventory, then you will see more houses being built, but most of the builders up here are building custom houses, so they are tied up building individual houses, so you are seeing very little speculative building.” Carter has been practicing real estate since 1993 and is the co-owner of Peak Mountain Properties along with Amy Spell. The agency opened in 2007 and currently has six full-time agents. Carter says that most of the buyers in Ashe have been from in-state cities such as Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Charlotte, all places within a three-hour drive of the mountains. “I’m thinking 70 percent of the market is probably second home driven. People are coming up here now and buying houses, so many people are now working remotely,” he said.

Tim Carter, the Broker in Charge at Peak Mountain Properties in West Jefferson 30

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

A

lleghany County is the smallest of the four counties in the High Country Association of Realtors with a population of about 12,000 that has remained the same for around 75 years. Sparta, the three-traffic-light county seat as it was referred to by Lou Morrison of Mountain Dreams Realty, has still had its own fair share of new residents and real estate purchases throughout 2020. Morrison has been licensed in North Carolina for about 35 years and in Virginia for around 20 years as Alleghany County borders on the state line with Virginia. “We are sort of an outlier in the association. In fact, most of our realtors are licensed in both states, so it is a bit different,” said Morrison. “It has been different because our market is much smaller than the Watauga, Avery, and even the West Jefferson market. The activity has been amazing, but I think we’re seeing the downside of that now because inventory is so short.” Morrison estimated they might have 50 residential listings in Alleghany County right now. “This year has been incredible. We’ve set records with eight or 10 consecutive months where sales across our four-county area have been record-setting. The median price, particularly in Alleghany, has gone up considerably. It’s been real positive in a lot of ways,” said Morrison. “You talk to people just to hear their story and it’s amazing the percentage of people we talk to haven’t ever been here before. Most of them are in-state folks but younger people than we probably saw 10 years ago. They hear about the county, they come up and rent a place for the weekend, and talk about how nice it is to not have to deal with traffic and crowds and be able to walk into a restaurant and sit down and have dinner without having to wait 45 minutes with 20 other people.”

Lou Morrison is a Realtor with Mountain Dreams Realty in Sparta April / May 2021

ferent. Back then, it was driven by funding given out by the banks to people who were not deserving, and now the banks are holding people’s feet to the fire, and people are so driven that they may sell their house back home, their primary home, to be up here, or borrow against the home back in Charlotte to be here,” Lambert said. “What I’m seeing is cash mostly. Where that cash comes from? It might be against another house or stock or whatever, but I’m seeing cash. I think a lot of people in the office would say the same thing.” Lambert feels like the market is in a much steadier place now than it was compared to the housing crash of 2008. “I feel like it’s much more healthier from the standpoint of the banks and people not being into properties upside down. I, fortunately, don’t know anybody who is into a property bad and upside down right now, nor are they in a position where that should happen. The only questions now are not so much the real estate industry, but just what is out there on the horizon like all industries in our overall economy, because the whole world is trying to come out of this pandemic, and all the countries have spent like crazy for relief, and small business owners, a lot of them have lost their business. I don’t know how small restaurants have stayed in business. So, those people may be out of the market for a while, I don’t know,” he said. Lambert issued a reminder that real estate is a cycle, and anyone making a decision to get into real estate should be prepared that the market won’t stay like it is right now. “A big question is, are we going to start seeing development? I’m not talking about custom homes now. I’m talking about are we going to see spec houses. There are a few here and there, but we’re not where we would see a lot of that. We were seeing people throw out spec homes in 2005. So, are we going to see somebody come into town and buy 60 or 70 acres and start building some houses? We haven’t seen a lot of that yet. That’s the big question. I had one guy come into town who’s ready to do some developing, and the whole election thing kind of slowed it down, will he come back to the table? But a guy like that is aware of the fact that we are inventory depleted, and he could turn some product around,” Lambert said. t

Homes That Sold in the Last Year

$4,300,00000 6 Bedroom • 7.5 Baths • 7,960 Sq Feet • On 3.54 Acres • Built in 1999. Exquisite Blowing Rock estate located in prestigious Mayview neighborhood, situated on one of the most desirable high elevation view properties in Eastern America. Sold through Blue Ridge Realty & Investments


INDOOR SPACES WITH AN OUTDOOR FEEL With an array of styles and configurations for traditional and contemporary spaces, Andersen® Big Doors offer ultimate design freedom to blur the line between indoors and out.

LO V E T H E L I F E YO U S E E. Learn more at andersenwindows.com/bigdoors “Andersen” and all other marks where denoted are trademarks of Andersen Corporation. ©2020 Andersen Corporation. All rights reserved.

3148 Highway 105 South Boone, NC 28607 828-264-5650 www.newriverbuilding.com

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

31


What it Takes to be a Realtor

M

aking the decision to become a realtor takes a lot of thought and understanding into the process that it takes to become licensed, understand taxes and constantly work with a client to meet their needs. “I don’t think the public really understands what an agent does, and they think, ‘hey, we’ll just put a sign in the yard and then we’ll get a check,’” said Duncan Martin, the CEO/Association Executive for the High Country Association of Realtors. “These are highly skilled professionals – highly trained professionals, who diligently spend countless hours to make sure it’s seamless for their clients because it is the largest purchase anyone will probably be involved in and not only that, but it has business implications.” Martin came to the High Country from Texas, where he had been active in real estate since 2003. Martin also served in the United States Navy. Realtors have to calm the fears of buyers who are preparing to invest a lot of money and make a major commitment for numerous years on a house purchase. “Then you start getting into the emotional issues of will my family be happy here? Is this a good place for my kids? Will we be here for five years, 10 years, 20 years? Once you put all that on the consumer, there’s enough to deal with right there. It is incumbent on the brokers and the association to educate the public that this is the value that being a realtor brings to you,” said Martin. Before any of the actual sales process starts, realtors have to become licensed, much like any other professional, such as a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher and the like. To receive a real estate license in North Carolina, each applicant must complete a 75-hour broker pre-licensing course with application fee and all required documentation. The applicant must them schedule a licensing examination and pay the examination fee. Once the applicant passes the exam, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission will determine whether the applicant has the “character” or licensure. The commission will then issue the license to the applicant. “They are continually tested and they have to maintain their professional development. There is a lot involved in maintaining a license in good standing and then you lay on top of that being a realtor in good standing,” said Martin. “The traditional business model has been that they are independent contractors which means they are their own business owners. They 32

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

are responsible for running a profitable business. They have to manage their business, manage their costs, measure their revenue, pace their revenue and develop revenue streams. Part of that financial management becomes learning the tax filing process. According to Martin, unlike many other professional workers, realtors have to file taxes quarterly instead of just at the end of the year. Realtors also have to sign up for their own business insurance and manage all business expenses. Realtors also have to initially work under a broker in charge after they receive their license. After a certain amount of time working under a broken in charge, they can start working on their own or start their own real estate office. “When you begin to think about it, it makes your head spin. It really does,” said Martin. “You may work under a sponsoring broker, like one of the major franchises, or you may strike out on your own where you’re going to be responsible for these people, and that’s just another layer of responsibility. Then you become responsible for their professional development. You’re responsible to make sure they are current on their ethics, plus whatever requirements come along to be a part of their franchise. The stack just gets bigger and bigger of things they have to do.” To become a member of the High Country Association of Realtors, each person must have a valid North Carolina Real Estate License and submit an application along with a $325 fee. There are four types of memberships currently offered by the High Country Association of Realtors. A Primary membership includes those that have never been a member of another association/board within the state of North Carolina. A Secondary InState membership is for those that are currently members of another association/board in North Carolina. A Secondary Out-ofState membership is for members of another board/association in another state. A Board of Choice membership is for realtors that are members of another association/board or

April / May 2021

MLS that wants to declare this as their primary board or board of choice. The High Country Association of Realtors covers Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties and currently has approximately 800 members. Realtors must also be affiliated with an existing High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or open a new firm. To subscribe to the High Country MLS with an existing firm, you must submit an application and a $325 fee. To open a new firm in the High Country MLS, you must submit an MLS application, a $2,000 office application fee and a $325 member fee. “It is an extraordinary field to be in because the fundamental stepping stone to building wealth in America is still homeownership and property ownership, and what an amazing opportunity a realtor has

Duncan Martin to participate in that wealth creation, which I think is just unique that somebody trusts us so much to let us guide them and help them in either getting started on building their wealth or moving their family forward in its progress,” said Martin. “I think the fact that the national membership is knocking on the door of 1.4 to 1.5 million members says something about how attractive this field is, and it’s just amazing. We have members who have been in the business 40plus years.” The High Country Association of Realtors will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. Plans have not been finalized for the event. To learn more about the celebration or the association, call 828-262-5437.


Boone’s Premier Tile Showroom

Over 30 Years of Flooring Experience!

Owners Trudy and David Shell

STore HourS: Monday - Friday: 8:30am to 5pm Saturday: By Appointment 1852 H w y. 105, Bo one • 828-265- 0472 • w w w.Mo un t a inT il eNC .c o m April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

33


Visit Our Winery — Tasting Room Open Daily — Monday-Saturday 12-6, Sunday 1-5

Live M us ic SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS

Food Truck

FRIDAYS, SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS

225 Vineyard Lane, Banner Elk, NC • 828.963.2400 visit our website for more info grandfathervineyard.com

Steve & Sally Tatum • Nicole & Dylan Tatum

Live M us ic ∕ Food Tru c k FRIDAYS, SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS

225 Vineyard Lane, Banner Elk, NC • 828.963.2400 visit our website for more info grandfathervineyard.com 34

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


11 miles from Boone on Highway 105 South Mon-Sat 10am - 5pm • OPEN ALL YEAR • 828-963-6466 5320 Highway 105 South • Banner Elk, NC www.tatumgalleries.com

Solid Wood Furniture Full Line of Outdoor Furniture

Interior Design Service 39 Years Experience Home Accessories Impeccable Service April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

35


Beech Mountain

Pioneering Little Town Turns 40

A

Story by Harley Nefe

t an elevation of 5,506 feet, Beech Mountain is Eastern America’s highest incorporated town. It has 350 full-time residents, but the population swells to as high as 10,000 during the winter and 5,000 in the summer. People flock to Beech Mountain in the winter to ski at Beech Mountain Resort and in the summer to take advantage of the mild climate and numerous recre-

ational opportunities. However, this year, the people of Beech Mountain are doing something more. They are celebrating because the town has reached 40 years as a municipality. Even though there are only 350 full-time residents on Beech Mountain, there are over 2,350 dwelling units on the mountain. Beech Mountain has become a popular location for vacation and sec-

Carolina Caribbean Corporation’s original plan for Beech Mountain in 1967 was that of a private resort destination.

36

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


Not too long after Ski Beech was developed, the DOT captured an aerial shot of Beech Mountain, with its 67 miles of roads. Some paving of gravel roads has happened since, but all the roads are still there, plus over 2,350 dwelling units on the mountain.

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

37


The Town of Beech Mountain’s first elected Town Council included (from left to right) Edwin Lotz, Kathleen Handley, Mayor Fred Pfohl, Reuben Mooradian and Wilson King.

The early Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department shows off one of its trucks and well-equipped volunteers. Jim Brooks served as a long-term chief and is currently the fire department’s board president. Bob Pudney is the current fire chief.

The POA Board negotiated the purchase of the golf course before reorganizing as the Beech Mountain Club. The course has undergone a number of renovations. 38

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

ond homes for many people from North Carolina to Florida. The idea of second homes for owners to escape the pressures of everyday life by enjoying various summer and winter activities goes back to the original plan for the area. In the 1960s, Tom Brigham, a Birmingham dentist, envisioned a ski resort in the south and chose Beech Mountain as the perfect site. Grover Robbins, a timber man and developer from Blowing Rock, along with 40 other investors turned Brigham’s vision into the Carolina Caribbean Corporation, which developed a private resort destination on Beech Mountain along with several other planned resorts including in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. A lot has changed for Beech Mountain over the last 40 years, but there are some long-time residents still living in the area that remember the history. “History goes away, and when people that were there know something about it go away, then that history is basically lost,” said Wilson King, a Beech Mountain resident whose first day with the resort was Dec. 15, 1972. King went to college at Appalachian State University in the 1960s before starting to work for Carolina Caribbean with its ski school. There are a couple of other individuals that are still around Beech Mountain who also arrived at the same time as King. This includes Fred Pfohl and Jim Brooks. Them, along with other young pioneers, were drawn to the area by going to college at App State, and they stayed and became an integral part of Beech Mountain’s history. Back in the 1960s, Carolina Caribbean was the developer of the area, and it controlled everything. If folks came

Many Beech Mountain residents showed up for ground-breaking festivities at the Buckeye Recreation Center on April 17, 2004.


for work, they got a job under Carolina Caribbean either with the ski school, local shops or other focuses in the village. Brooks, for example, joined the property sales staff. “Carolina Caribbean’s idea was to sell you a place in North Carolina, and it was a great place,” King said. “When I got here, it was like Las Vegas.” King further described, “Carolina Caribbean was good to us. I couldn’t ask for better. It was like finding the end of a rainbow.” For example, Carolina Caribbean gave employees free dinners, and their 4-bedroom condominiums cost $10 a week to stay there. “It was walking distance to the slopes, so we had it made,” King said. “We worked hard, but it was just such a great place.” King reminisced about the entertainment that Beech Mountain members enjoyed and how every weekend there was a band performing at the View House and something always going on at the Beech Tree Inn, which was the members’ clubhouse. It was a lively place. “We had a great group of people, and it was fun,” King said. “It’s always been fun. Working at a resort was pretty rough, and it takes a lot of work, but it’s been a ride.” Carolina Caribbean built what is today Beech Mountain Ski Resort, most of the town’s roads, the town water and sewer system, along

Beech Mountain once was a rugged wilderness known only to the Cherokee Indians. Eventually hunters, loggers, moonshiners and settlers made their marks upon the mountain. Rebecca Tuten, who wrote the History of Beech Mountain when she was Chamber President in the 1980s, tells the fascinating story of the early days of the Beech Mountain area. You can find it at www.hbvillas.org/history-of-beech-mountain.html. with many of the houses on Beech Mountain. However, soon enough, lots sold faster than roads could be built to reach them, and times went bad for the overextended company. Back then, the ski resort did not have advanced snow-making capabilities as it does today, and natural snow was not always a sure thing. Bad winters — as in warm and rainy weather — plagued the ski industry. King remembers Carolina Caribbean paid him for the entire month of January in 1974, but he wasn’t able to teach a single lesson. During that time, there was a recession that caused gas shortages and high

interest rates. Financially, Carolina Caribbean was struggling with all of its resorts in the different locations. “So, Carolina Caribbean started taking money out of Beech Mountain to keep afloat,” King said. “By the time they realized they just couldn’t pull it off, it was too late.” Carolina Caribbean filed for bankruptcy in 1974, and all the residents on Beech Mountain had already made investments, so they were concerned with how the situation would carry forward. The Property Owners Association, which had been formed by Carolina Caribbean in 1970 to collect assessments for the maintenance of roads and recreation

Historial Pictures Courtesy of Beech Mountain Historical Society

The Beech Mountain Town Hall ribbon cutting ceremony happened on Sept. 29, 1989, with a state senator, the mayor and council members present.

The Town of Beech Mountain held a Garbage Day Parade to celebrate the purchase of new garbage trucks. April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

39


Fred Pfohl, Jim Brooks (top left picture) and Wilson King (bottom left picture) have lived in Beech Mountain for many years. Here are pictures of Jim Books (middle picture) and Fred Pfohl (right picture) in the early years and recent times. areas, then took full control of the maintenance of the road system, recreation areas and water/sewer systems. “The whole thing is based on the necessity for water and sewer,” Pfohl said. “After Carolina Caribbean went bankrupt, who was going to make sure when you turned the cold water on that something would come out? Or what was going to happen to the sewer lines?” At the time, Pfohl was the Operations Manager at the ski resort; therefore, when Carolina Caribbean or Ski Beech’s parent company went bankrupt, Pfohl became the Recreation Director for the Property Owners Association. “The Property Owners Association was the one it was carried on to,” Pfohl said. “They were going to have to continue assessing the property owners in order to get enough money to keep the water, sewer, security, street lights and road maintenance.” The leaders in securing the future of Beech Mountain were Property Owners Association members President Hunter Furches, past President and past Executive Director Jim Hatch, and George Handley who became the Executive Director in 1974. 40

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

“The Property Owners Association did a great job,” Pfohl said. “They picked up the ball and ran with it, and it was only because they were a strong organization when the bankruptcy occurred that they could continue and take care of things. They literally took over. They paid the guys that ran the motor graders, and they paid the guys that worked at the water plant and sewer plant, and they paid for the street lights to shine.” Property Owners Association dues were the solution, and the organization thought that was the way it could be, but then they got challenged when people quit paying their fees. “All of a sudden, money became an issue again, and it didn’t rule in the favor of them being able to continue,” Pfohl said. At this stage, the state imposed a moratorium on building on Beech Mountain. People who had purchased lots couldn’t build houses or tap into the existing sewer system because it could no longer provide adequate services. Therefore, everybody put their heads together to decide what to do next. The Institute of Government, which is now under the umbrella of UNC-Chapel

April / May 2021

Hill’s School of Government, provides educational, advisory and research support for local and state governments, and the Institute of Government personnel assisted the people of Beech Mountain. “The Institute of Government was a great help to us,” Pfohl said. “I recall some of them coming and explaining and helping us set up everything and figuring it all out.” That’s when it was decided that the only way the Property Owners Association would be able to continue taking care of important issues would be to form a sanitary district. Under state rules and regulations, sanitary districts are set up as a municipality with the authority to tax, and the need for money was the important part. In 1978, the Sanitary District was established by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which later allowed for the moratorium to be lifted. Members of the Property Owners Association were appointed to the Board of the Sanitary District. Pfohl was one of the five individuals. The Sanitary District took over the water and sewer operations, which the bankruptcy left in drastic need of upgrading and expansion. With the Sanitary District, money


to learn about. Every could be collected for time you got ready to water and sewer, but do something, there not road maintenance were rules and reguor security. Therefore, lations out there that there were other exyou had to adhere to penses that needed to that none of us had any be considered. idea about because we So, the Property hadn’t been involved Owners Association in any town municipal decided the next step government.” to take in order to surPfohl attributed vive would be to incorBeech Mountain’s sucporate into a town. In cessful development to May of 1981, the Town of Beech Mountain Beech Mountain residents are celebrating this year because conservative spending. was incorporated by the town has reached 40 years as a municipality. In May of Apart from water and sewer bonds, property act of the North Caro1981, the Town of Beech Mountain was incorporated. taxes and user charges lina General Assembly. funded town needs and Pfohl said it was a services. Beech Mounnatural transition to tain learned to survive with the tax dolbecoming a town because people wanted lars it had. to protect their property. King shared that the Town of Beech “If you go back to all those people that Mountain respected people’s rights, but owned property, because of the sewer also respected nature from the very bemoratorium they couldn’t build, so what ginning. One way they did this was by were they going to do? Was their lot going developing a tree ordinance. If people cut to be totally worthless?” Pfohl asked. down too many trees or the wrong ones, King said, “We wanted the Town of they were fined. Beech Mountain, which meant we could “The place was so important, and tax and do things like municipal services, nature was so important,” King said. but we scraped and struggled. It was like “You can walk out your backdoor and be once it was in gear, it kept rolling, but we right in the middle of the greatest show had doubts. We weren’t sure what was goon earth. The animals will come almost ing on at that time. We didn’t know if we right up to you. Everything is just so neat were going to make it, and if we didn’t, we and clean and has spectacular views. We were out of business. We had to jump in and didn’t plan for it to necessarily be that do it, and fortunately, we had a pretty good way, but we just planned for it to continue group of smart people that started off.” to be that way, and it has been. It’s still The Town of Beech Mountain took such a great place.” the folks that were on the Sanitary DisAt an elevation of 5,506 feet, the Pfohl said that it’s hard to believe 40 trict Board and appointed them as the town sign welcomes visitors. years have gone by, but that it has been interim Town Council. Vernon Holland was appointed as interim mayor, and helped the Town of Beech Mountain exciting and a lot of fun to watch. “I think about how fortunate I’ve Pfohl was one of the members appointed draft ordinances, secure loans and purbeen, but it hasn’t been me, it’s been all along with Edwin Lotz, Reuben Moora- chase facilities. King remembers some nights being at these people around,” Pfohl said. “I can dian and Gordon Ripley. honestly say that Beech Mountain is a Once an election could be held as soon Town Hall working until midnight. Through that hard work, the Town pretty happening place and has taken on as possible and votes were counted, Pfohl became Beech Mountain’s first elected Council members also achieved the initial what has been needed to be taken on to mayor. He ended up being elected four organization of the town government, the make it the best possible place for all of different times for two-year terms. King turning of a resort security force into a us to live in.” King also said he feels so fortunate to also served on the first Town Council town police department, the construction and later served as Mayor and worked on of sewage and waste treatment plants, the have come to Beech Mountain when he did. “I was here for the opportunities, and the Town Council for eight years. Other creation of a town park and more. “I’ve said it so many times; it was fun,” I took advantage of them,” King said. “I members of the first Town Council included Reuben Mooradian, Kathleen Pfohl said. “It was fun thinking about it. still consider myself the luckiest man on We didn’t have time to argue and fight the face of the earth with what I’ve been Handley and Edwin Lotz. “We had a clean slate; we had to build about political issues. We had to get this able to do here and being here at the right time and going through all the wondera town,” Pfohl said. “We had to organize. town up and running.” Pfohl added, “There were so many ful experiences and all of the wonderful We had to write ordinances.” And during his first two terms, Pfohl things that we had to do, and we had people. Most of them are gone, but they April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

41


Beech Mountain’s brand new public works facility is soon to be ready in May. The building will house offices, equipment, a repair shop, and a full-size vehicle wash system.

One of the two compactors for solid waste at the convenience center instead of the previous open dumpsters.

Under construction now is the recycling center will have dumpsters for glass, metal and plastics in each of the bays.

The salt storage shed will be able to hold 110 tons of salt for use on the roadways in the winter. 42

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

still are part of it.” Brooks is the other individual who has been around Beech Mountain for around the same time King and Pfohl have. “Jim Brooks has worked harder for this town than anyone I know of,” King said. “He still works hard, and he’s a good guy.” Brooks lives right outside of town limits; therefore, that disqualifies him to be able to run for certain positions for the Town of Beech Mountain. However, he has been heavily involved in the area. Brooks currently serves as the Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department Board President, and he works as a realtor/broker for Beechwood Realty. “He’s been a friend to Beech Mountain, and I hope Beech Mountain has been a friend to him,” King said of Brooks. King added, “It’s hard to think of a place that would be better than Beech Mountain. This place has been really good to me, and I appreciate it. It really would have been a shame if this place didn’t work out or become successful in itself. We need to keep it as close to paradise as can be, and it’s important for the people in charge to understand that.” Long-time Beech Mountain residents like King and Pfohl are able to describe the beginning moments of when Carolina Caribbean was around and when the resort was in full swing before the area fell to harder times and eventually transitioned to a town. However, residents like Bob Pudney, who is Beech Mountain’s Town Manager and Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department’s Fire Chief, shared the changes that took place after the incorporation. Pudney has been on Beech Mountain for 20 years now, and he said, “When I got here, it was a quiet little sleepy town that was beginning to show its age.” Beech Mountain went through the 2008 economic recession. Many of the homes in the town are considered second homes, so there was less of an incentive and less of an ability for owners to maintain them and keep them up, causing a lot of the older homes to be in a state of disrepair. “The town was tired looking,” Pudney said. “It hadn’t been maintained. It hadn’t been updated. It certainly hadn’t grown much.” Beech Mountain’s infrastructure has been deteriorating. “It was put in 40 years ago by the original developer, and materials weren’t the best at the time and certainly didn’t stand the test of time,” Pudney said. “But the town has found itself through that period of time, and now we find ourselves in a position where


our infrastructure is to the point where it’s critical. For us to sustain our operations, we got to take care of the infrastructure.” Pudney further said that’s what the focus has been on for the last few years. Beech Mountain has one reservoir, Buckeye Lake, that the town gets its water from and treats. However, back in 2010, Beech Mountain experienced a record drought where it was within three days of running out of water completely. Therefore, the town is embarking upon replacing water and sewer lines and finding other sources of water. “All of that is anticipating the continued growth and livability of the town, and that takes a lot of time, effort and money,” Pudney said. “As with most local governments, your infrastructure and your facilities lag far behind what the needs are. So, as the town has grown quickly over the years, our services have not kept pace.” Another improvement that has been taking place is with Beech Mountain’s Public Works Department, which was where the old security office was back in the Carolina Caribbean days. The Public Works Department wasn’t able to main-

Bob Pudney serves as Beech Mountain’s Town Manager and Beech Mountain Volunteer Fire Department’s Fire Chief, and he has been on Beech Mountain for 20 years. tain its expensive equipment because it deteriorated rapidly in the winter. Therefore, Beech Mountain’s administration and Town Council decided to build a new public works facility to keep equipment inside. They also added a full-size vehicle

wash system to help with the salt in the winter and help keep vehicles and equipment longer, a salt storage building and a newer, upgraded version of the convenience center. “We need to get the water, sewer and

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

43


solid waste handled because without that, we are going to have difficulty,” Pudney said. The Town of Beech Mountain has a number of departments and personnel that are honing in on making the adjustments. Town Hall includes the Town Clerk, the Finance Officer, the Tax Office, the Planning and Inspections Department as well as the Police Department. The Tourism Development Authority and Economic Development office is located in the Visitor’s Center. There is also the Parks and Recreation Department, which is at Buckeye Recreation Center. “They handle all the recreational activities for the town,” Pudney said. “When you are a resort town, you need to have those recreation activities, not only for the people who live here, but for the visitors.” The Parks and Rec Department operates two sledding hills in the winter for free, and in the summer, there are guided hikes, fishing and all different kinds of events and activities. “It looked like the people who visited us became enthralled again with the outdoors, so the town built trails and that seems to be one of our shining examples of growth,” Pudney said. “It brought a lot of summer folks up, and anytime you have a lot of visitors, you have businesses that invest and grow.” Lately, Beech Mountain has seen a few new businesses and new faces. The town used to have a lot of vacant buildings and homes that were on the market for years, but have now sold. “When those older properties sell, the people who buy them come in, and they improve them,” Pudney said. “They fix up the inside. They put a new roof on. They

(From left to right) Brothers Jimmie and Johnny Accardi are the owners of Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, a restaurant on Beech Mountain. They are both considered natives to the town as they were born and raised in the area. do painting. They do landscaping. Then that improves that piece of property, and then maybe two or three properties down the road the same thing occurs, and the town begins to improve and grow.” The Town of Beech Mountain has also spent a lot of time over the past few years on beautification. “If we are going to call ourselves a resort town, we should look like a resort town,” Pudney said. Overall, 40 years is a long time in a small town’s history like Beech Mountain, especially when compared to neighboring towns like Valle Crucis, Boone

Jimmie and Johnny Accardi have purchased properties like this one with the goal to develop the commercial side of Beech Mountain more. 44

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

and Blowing Rock. “In 40 years, so much has changed, and yet, so much is the same. It’s kind of unique,” Pudney said. He referenced how the ski resort is still around and doing really well. Fred’s General Mercantile, which has been owned by Pfohl since 1979, is still doing well. “Those things have stayed the same, but yet, you see a lot of growth in our town, and you see a lot of improvement,” Pudney said. So, what does the future look like for Beech Mountain? Pudney shared that he believes the town will continue to grow, and he related it to an analogy he heard. “Beech Mountain was like a rocket,” Pudney said. “It just lifted off and went straight up in a steep trajectory, but now we reached orbit and sort of evened out, but we are in a higher orbit than we were the year before. I think we want to continue that, keep that higher orbit and make improvements where we need to.” One of the Town of Beech Mountain’s goals is to always bring in visitors who enjoy and appreciate the outdoors. “I like the mountain,” Pudney said. “I think that’s what attracted people here, and we would like to maintain that.” The beauty of the nature and environment of Beech Mountain is what attracted people to the area to begin with, and


The Accardi brothers also have a food truck in association with the Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria. to this day, that is what people still seek. Elena Kontinos, who is a receptionist for Beech Mountain’s Visitor Center, is one of the individuals who discovered the beauty of Beech Mountain and decided to raise a family there. “We were attracted to Beech Mountain through the charm that the town offered,” Kontinos said. “We came to visit one time, and we were just taken in by the friendliness, how neighborly and kind everyone was to the visitors.” Kontinos has a daughter named Annie who was two years old when they moved, and while living in the town, Kontinos had two sons who are considered natives to Beech Mountain. A lot of communities have families that go back generations, and the Accardi family is part of the beginning of that history for the town. Johnny Accardi, 31, and Jimmie Accardi, 25, are Kontinos’s sons, and they are seen as the new generation, as they were born and raised in the area. “There aren’t too many full-time people on little Beech Mountain, so it was interesting especially with our young age,” Jimmie said, reflecting on his and his brother’s childhood. “We didn’t have too many friends. The ones we did have, we cherished, and that’s probably why my brother and I became such best friends early on.” Jimmie went on to say, “It’s really cool to grow up here. It’s a small, tightknit community. It’s awesome to see how the mountain has grown. From when we were little boys, there were only a couple of businesses to where it’s at today, where there are so many houses everywhere and a lot of commercialized businesses.” Jimmie and Johnny are the owners of Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, a restaurant on Beech Mountain. For 27 years, their parents ran the business, which they built from the ground up. They bought the land in 1987, built the restaurant in 1988 and opened the following year.

828-264-5406 2181 US Hw y 421 North Boone, NC 28607

w w w.jeffsplumbingandrepair.com info@jeffsplumbingandrepair.com

CommerCial & residential Plumbing serviCes Water Heaters - drain Cleaning - FauCets sumP PumPs - drain line - Water main rePlaCement & more Serv i ng the High Country S i nce 1987

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

45


The business started out as a little market, but the family realized the pizza they were selling was making a lot more money than the other items in the store, so it became the Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria. “The pizza place was our playground, and it eventually turned into our careers,” Johnny said. Before her two sons bought the restaurant, Kontinos said her time with the business was fun. “It was good to us, and we enjoyed it,” she said. “What’s nice is when you have a mom and pop establishment, your kids are always there. They are with you, and they are around you. They see what you do, and it’s just a fun, family environment.” After growing up in that environment, Jimmie said he and his brother are comfortable with what they do. “We enjoy it, and we love it,” Jimmie said. “We don’t really consider it work. We have a great staff, so they make it easy. We enjoy being entrepreneurs and being creative and being our own bosses.” However, the Accardi brothers give all the credit for the success of the restaurant to their parents. “Mom and dad built the foundation of the mechanics of how this restaurant works,” Jimmie said. “A lot of people didn’t call it Brick Oven; they called it Elena’s in the 90s. Just like what Fred is to Fred’s, mom was to the Brick Oven.” Johnny added, “She laid the foundation for the front of the house personality, which was very positive and made the business.” But now the business has turned over to the next generation, and the Accardi brothers are examples of the younger demographics starting to make a go of it on Beech Mountain. Jimmie also serves as the Town of Beech Mountain’s Vice Mayor. “So far, I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Jimmie said. I want to do it for a very long time, and I love it. I try to be the voice for the young families up here and the business community because before, it was hard back when mom and dad were starting off their business. There weren’t many businesses, so there wasn’t a big voice, but now there is, so I’m trying to advocate for businesses and second homeowners who aren’t always here and 46

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

Beech Mountain’s current Town Council (from left to right) Council Member Erin Gonyea, Council Member Kelly Melang, Vice Mayor Jimmie Accardi, Mayor Barry Kaufman and Council Member Weidner Abernethy. the young families.” As for the future of the town, Jimmie’s perspective is as follows, “Beech Mountain is a really unique and fragile place. So, we want to see proper stability growth with the residential and commercial working hand in hand together to grow in good fashion. We want more charming businesses. We want to see more families moving up here and reno-

Director of Tourism and Economic Development Kate Gavenus.

April / May 2021

vating their parents’ houses if they took over their houses.” “Overall, the businesses are definitely succeeding,” Johnny added. “Beech Mountain is happening.” And that couldn’t be more true. Kate Gavenus, Director of Tourism and Economic Development, said the new generation is very welcoming of new businesses and new people. Beech Mountain had 58 new families move to the mountain last year, which is a very telling statement for a small town of 350 people to suddenly have 58 new families move in. Properties are being sold quickly, and new owners are renovating, remodeling and modernizing everything. “This means a renaissance is happening on Beech Mountain,” Gavenus said. “We are revitalizing, and we are doing it rapidly.” With people moving to Beech Mountain, the next thing that comes to mind is job availability. On Beech Mountain, there are 53 businesses supplying over 700 jobs. “That’s a really important change for how we used to see this mountain,” Gavenus said. “We used to see it as a resort, and it’s actually a real town.”


ALORE • ORGANIC HERBS • HEIRLOOM VEG

It’s Our

30th Year Custom Planted Containers • Landscape Installation Garden Consultation and Design 5589 Highway 321 South • Blowing Rock • 828-295-4585 Monday - Saturday 9am-6pm

AR

IV E

Your Favorite Destination Garden Shop

ES • GORGEOUS ANNUALS • FAIRY GARDENS • H

SHRUBS & TREES • CRAZY CONIFERS • RHODIE

SG

GI

Beech Mountain is starting to recognize its potential, but it wouldn’t be what it is currently without the elders who came before. “Fortunately for us, we still have some wonderful original pioneer people like Fred Pfohl, Wilson King, Jim Brooks, the Accardi family and others,” Gavenus said. “They are still here because they love this mountain, and they can’t imagine any other place being home. We are very fortunate to have a core group of people who stuck it out through that hard time when it switched from being just a resort concept and then developed into a town, and everybody figured out how to make the structures work.” By growing from a private resort destination in the 1960s to the town Beech Mountain is today, a lot has definitely been happening in its many years of history, especially when looking at its 40 years as a municipality, and that in addition to what lies ahead in the future is surely something worth celebrating.

DY PERENNIALS • VERTICAL GARDENS • NAT

“From Classic Traditional To Unique Eclectic... and Everything In Between...” Beech Mountain residents are invited to participate in the celebration of the town’s history and achievements during the town’s birthday party on May 1, For this event, there will be a craft fair and community tables around the ball field beginning at 12 p.m. Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria will also be available until 3 p.m. before Fred Pfohl’s BBQ takes over until 6 p.m. To celebrate Arbor Day as well, there will be 40 seedlings for guests to help plant at Buckeye Recreation Center. Party-goers are also invited to bring a small item or photo to place in the town’s time capsule, which will be buried during the event. To continue this day of festivities, there will be prize winners, DJ music, cake and plenty of recognitions. Attendees will be able to connect with each other over the shared love of the area and the special place that is Beech Mountain. t

66 Pershing St. Newland, NC Open Winter: Thurs-Sat 10-5 Open Summer: Wed-Sat 10-5

828-733-8148

The Consignment Cottage Warehouse theconsignmentcottagewarehouse.com April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

47


Calm, Cool and Collected Charles Hardin Becomes Steadying Leadership Figure in Blowing Rock President/CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce

By Nathan Ham

B

usiness owners and residents of different times in 13 years while he was to move to the company headquarters in Blowing Rock will all tell you what working for Wendy’s, including a move to Nashville. So we moved to Nashville and a great job Charles Hardin has done Lenoir where he was there for the opening I got 15 Mrs. Winters Restaurants there since taking over as the President/CEO of of the restaurant location. Hardin worked and built that up to 25. Then they said we the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. there and managed that location for about want you to go to Knoxville and do the What they might not know is how Charles a year and then they moved back around same thing so they moved me to Knoxville found his way to the High Country and Asheville where he operated another Wen- to develop the eastern Tennessee market. into a career that has been a perfect fit for dy’s location. After that, the company con- After that, they wanted me to come back to company headquarters and be a the mild-mannered, hard-working regional person with 45 restaurants western North Carolina native. in five states and operate out of Hardin was born in Waynesville Brentwood, Tennessee.” and grew up in the small town of At that point, the Hardin family Clyde, which is basically right off of found out they would soon have a Interstate 40 in Haywood County. child on the way. Hardin’s first experience in Watau“We lived there for 10 years, ga County came when he chose to meanwhile the company was bought attend Appalachian State University by another company in Atlanta so in 1973. Charles graduated in 1978 now my headquarters was Atlanta. with a degree in biology. I worked for this guy who was an “I was a pre-dental student, I extremely wonderful person, a selfwas planning on going to dental made multi-millionaire, a guy who schools. I couldn’t really afford anyowned 900 Arby’s restaurants. He where except at UNC and I didn’t bought all of our 250 Mrs. Winget in there. I did get in at the Uniters Restaurants and several other versity of Minnesota, but I did not chains around. I learned a lot from want to go there and couldn’t afhim,” Charles said. ford it so I decided not to do that,” This ended up being the last said Hardin. In 1979 Charles is pictured here in Lenoir move into a larger city that the famHardin met the love of his life, outside of his apartment on the morning of his first day of management training at Wendy’s. ily would have to make. His comMargaret, while at Appalachian pany could not convince him to State, and the two ended up getting make a permanent move to Atlanta married while they were in school. to manage over 100 restaurants. “She had one more year to go and that’s tinued to give him more responsibilities. “We decided that we wanted to sim“They ended up wanting me to be a why I hung around for a year. She ended up getting a job at the extension service in multi-unit person so they gave me three plify and come back to our roots. My wife Polk County so we moved to Tryon,” said stores in South Carolina and I moved to was born and raised in Raleigh, her sister Charles. “That was when I was applying Greenville. That went to 14 stores and and her husband are in Boone, we went to for dental school and found out I didn’t get then 28 stores and kept going. Then the App State so we wanted to come back. I in, so I had to find something else to do. I company bought another company that was almost 38. My wife said I had a midsaw an ad in the newspaper for Wendy’s was a fried chicken restaurant down in At- life crisis to move us to Blowing Rock,” hiring management trainee people. That lanta and we were headquartered in Nash- laughed Charles. “I studied this for a long was when Wendy’s was just starting off big ville so they kept trying to get us Wendy’s time and looked for an opportunity here time. So I said okay we’ll see if I can do guys to help them run a chicken restau- and there are not really many opportunithis. So I got hired and then started moving rant,” Charles said. “Gradually some of us ties to do much with my experience. I almoved over there so they finally made me ways thought maybe I could get on at the up the ladder and moving around.” Charles recalled that they moved 15 an offer I couldn’t refuse. They wanted me university but I never was able to, it’s hard 48

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


to come into the university from outside like that.” That’s when Hardin’s food background led him to an idea that not only allowed him to begin planting roots in the Blowing Rock community but also gave him the chance to meet so many of the local citizens that love to call the small town home. At the time, Charles was operating 45 restaurants across five states, so it only made sense to take a jump into the deep waters of owning his own restaurant alongside his wife. “We decided that we would open our own place. We came up and looked around, and the only place I could find was over at Tanger Outlets back in the corner. There had been 12 restaurants in and out of that space in a period of fewer than 12 years so I was really not sure about why that was the case but I did a lot of research on it and figured out I had to do something totally different, so we went into that space,” he said. “The guy I worked for, the president of the company, he actually sponsored me to get started. He provided me designers and other resources to help design the space and get me the equipment. He also gave me a very nice severance package. He gave me enough money to be able to operate that restaurant without taking salary out of it for two years.” Margaret has always been very supportive of her husband’s career and knew at some point they would end up back in the High Country even with the many moves in between college graduation and opening the Parkway Café. “The minute we left, it was his goal to come back. He just loves it up here, he really loves the weather and I think he really loves the mountains, the snow and he worked for about 15 years trying to get back up here. He was just really interested in the quality of life here,” she said. “We moved from Nashville and living in a big city where there was a high amount of crime was just not something we were interested in doing any longer. I think it didn’t really impact us until we knew someone that got murdered at an ATM taking $20 out. We looked at each other and said we’ve got to get out of here. Another big thing is we just wanted to be closer to family. He’s a mountain boy, I’m not a mountain girl but I became a mountain woman.” The Hardin Family, now with a young son named Andrew, began to plant their roots in Blowing Rock. April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

49


“We loved it here and that’s why we got to know a lot of people. I would take ended up doing some pretty big caterings,” wanted to move back. We were able to find these little Igloo coolers and take these cups Hardin said. “Another thing I did was back a piece of land in Mayview that was go- of our chicken salad and I’d take crackers then pharmaceutical representatives were ing on the market. We had a friend in real and chicken salad and walk around the allowed to buy doctors’ offices lunches, I estate and she got us a heck of a deal on community and give people samples. We was doing it at a reasonable profit but at these two acres of property. We wanted to developed a lot of business that way. We the same time, I was making customers out build a house so we bought that property started delivering and got into catering, we of all of these people that worked here. The pharmaceutical rep is paying the and then we cut it in half because I bill but you’re really developing the didn’t need the whole two acres. We customers.” sold half of it and that essentially paid Sales remained strong and customfor our property,” Charles explained. ers were happy to come and enjoy a At this point, Andrew was in the tasty meal at the café. After opening fifth grade and was attending Blowing the Parkway Café and working in the Rock School. He would go on to attend business for 10 years, Charles was Watauga High School for two years faced with making a major decision and then attended the North Carolina for the future. School of Science and Math for his ju“I only had two choices, it was nior and senior years before graduating selling it and get into something else and attending Georgia Tech. or expand it and have Parkway Ca“He is an aerospace engineer and fés all over the place. I understand he has done great. He’s got two masfranchising, but I just didn’t want ter’s degrees now and still lives in to have restaurants spread out again Decatur, Georgia and we have one where I would be right back in the grandson,” Charles said. position I was in growing that. So I In Blowing Rock, Charles and decided to sell it, I had a buyer and it Margaret began putting the business was a qualified buyer that paid cash,” plan together for the Parkway Café, Hardin explained. and it was quickly a big hit. MargaIn 2004, Charles would prepare ret’s degree in foods and nutrition himself for another new career change. helped play a big role in the restauHe was serving on the board for the rant’s quick success. Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce “We did the restaurant as a joint when the chamber president at the effort. I didn’t have the restaurant Family photo of Charles, Margaret and Andrew time, Howard Gray, decided to retire. experience that Charles had but I did during their time living in Franklin in 1992. “I looked at that job and believed have the food and nutrition part of it, so I was able to help him with aspects of that as far as recipes, creating the menu, and even the décor of the restaurant,” said Margaret. “I worked there for two years and then went on my separate way. It’s really hard when you work together in a stressful environment like that and come home and not be able to get away from it. You both know what’s going on and you’re both worried about the same things, we just felt like it wasn’t healthy. We felt after we got it off the ground, I could go on and do something else.” Margaret was able to get a job at Appalachian State University working in the administrative unit for the Human Development and Psychological Counseling Department in the Reich College of Education. Things went really well for the restaurant and Charles always came up with some creative marketing ventures to find ways to bring more folks to the café. “I got out in the community and 50

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

Charles has always enjoyed building and engineering sand castles, even after his son grew up and went on to college at Georgia Tech to be an engineer..

April / May 2021

I could do it. There were a lot of people that interviewed for it but I guess where I had been on the board everyone knew me pretty well, they hired me to do this in February of 2004,” said Charles. One of the people that supported the hiring of Charles was Tracy Brown, who is the current Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority’s Executive Director. They were both on the board for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce at the time of Gray’s retirement. Brown had also spent time working as the manager for Tanger Outlets when Charles was there operating his restaurant. “I was on the chamber executive board of directors and on the hiring committee who worked to fill the position when Howard Gray decided to retire. Both Charles and I had served on the chamber board of directors and the High Country Host Board of Directors, each for several years at that point, and it was a surprise when


he applied for the job. In my mind, it was a done deal! Having worked with Charles at the Tanger Outlet Center/ Shoppes on the Parkway, I knew his work ethic and attention to detail. The fact that he’s an App State alumnus didn’t hurt either,” said Brown.

The Next Chapter: Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce

Charles accepted the job as the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce President/CEO and was ready to jump right in and become a major advocate for the business community. He also had his own experience as a business owner in Blowing Rock to fall back on. “A lot of people knew me from Parkway Café. My philosophy on that business was that the only way it could survive was if I had year-round local people that came there to eat in the winter. It’s not the summer you have to worry about, it’s the winter. That summer business is wonderful, but you have got to build a base business. You’ve got to figure out how to get local business on a year-round basis,” said Hardin. Charles recalled when he first started that outgoing chamber president Howard Gray was there to give him a few pointers, but Charles quickly figured out that he would be doing things a lot different than the previous president. “He was an ex-military guy so his personality and approach to things were very different than mine,” Hardin said. “We had several employees but the contrast was quite a bit different between Howard and me. Some of those employees retired, some of them left. I started bringing in people of my own. I remember Howard’s office in the boardroom; he had this old military metal desk. There was no technology to speak of. We had an old phone system; it was awful. We bought a new phone system and put it in, then we started upgrading technology. We networked the whole building and brought in real computers. My wife said I deserved a nice desk so she bought me this new desk.” That desk is still the one Charles sits down at every day to begin his work. When he first started at the chamber, Charles recalled the annual budget being around $104,000 and they had just 100 members. Now, the chamber has a budget of about $650,000 and over 500 members. Right out of the gate, Charles started to find ways to boost the chamber’s membership and find ways to make an impact in Blowing Rock. “Back then they had no newsletter and never had a newsletter. We started out a newsletter and it was printed and we would have volunteers that would come in and fold them and stamp them. We did it once a month when we first started,” said Charles. “Looking back on that, they had never had any sort of networking. That’s one of the foundations of a chamber. We need to do some kind of ‘Business After Hours’ or something so we started those.” Things were not always the smoothest back in the mid2000s when Hardin was beginning his chamber career. There were several citizens and businesses that felt some discontent about what the chamber was actually doing for Blowing Rock if anything at all. There were competing

Charles is in his office in Nashville in 1993. He was the Regional Vice President of the Tennessee Region of Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits.

“You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own.” Charles and Brian Crutchfield were fond of sharing this quote with members of their Leadership Challenge programs over the years.

Hardin met the love of his life, Margaret, while at Appalachian State in the early 1970s, and the two ended up getting married while they were still in school. Photo by Lonnie Webster April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

51


The annual Symphony by the Lake event held at Chetola in Blowing Rock has always been a major fund raiser for the Chamber. Here, Charles prepares to give his remarks to the audience for their support and attendance. organizations as well trying to meet the needs of businesses in the town. “Back then when I first started, we had the merchant’s association. It was always felt that the merchant’s association was started because the chamber wasn’t doing its job. Even though the chamber represents all of the businesses and not just downtown merchants, that’s always something we have had to work through. They finally decided that the chamber was now doing its job so they folded their association and passed their remaining funds on to the chamber some years ago,” Charles said. “The biggest thing that happened when I first started was it was right at the time when they were starting the TDA. Unfortunately, that became contentious. The chamber had always done tourism promotion here, and the town was collecting three percent tax at the time and was giving the chamber about $60,000 to produce some promotional brochures and answer the telephones essentially. When the town decided they wanted to get their tax moved up from three to six percent that came along with some other things like having to set up an independent board that is part of the town. At that time when they set up the board, the board then wanted to set up its own staff, they didn’t want to do this with the chamber anymore. They gave us a warning that we’re not going to fund you anymore for running a visitor center anymore or for anything, they were going to do it themselves. That was a big fight here for several years, mainly because 52

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

of the personalities of some individuals that were pretty headstrong about where they wanted to go with it.” The chamber, which Charles said was practically penniless at the time, moved with the Blowing Rock TDA on Highway

“Charles has been a real asset to the chamber, this town and all of the High Country region. You know who you’re dealing with; he’s honest, smart, thoughtful and humble.” Tracy Brown 321 with both working out of the same building. “The TDA pumped a lot of money in that building and made a visitor’s center out there and we went out there and we smiled and had offices out there and we worked together. Gradually things began to get better. They went through three directors in three years, and then they hired Tracy Brown. Tracy and I had a good, long relationship when I was at Tanger and he was at Tanger. That was really the thing

April / May 2021

that turned the tide is that the two of us got along really well in spite of the two boards always fighting,” Hardin said. With the Highway 321 expansion, the new visitor’s center was suddenly in the way of progress. The Blowing Rock TDA moved its office to the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM) and the chamber moved back to its location on Main Street. The chamber originally started renting the building, but then had its sights set on purchasing the location and making it the permanent home for the chamber. “After a period of time, the owner decided he wanted to sell the building so we said okay, give us a price and they gave us a price and it was outrageous. But we worked it down some and we had saved some money and we were able to buy it and we worked a deal with the TDA to come back here and they have become a tenant in our building. The chamber operates the visitor’s center and the TDA gives us a little funding towards that. We’re both happy here, they are paying a lot less rent than they were at BRAHM and the location here is a lot better. Buying the building was a big undertaking and I think it was the right thing to do. We looked at a lot of spaces out on the bypass after it was completed and just never saw anything,” said Charles. Tracy recalled the same events that brought him and Charles together working in support of Blowing Rock businesses. “When the Tourism Development Authority was created by the town council, there was serious trepidation on the side of the chamber because of funding and mission. Was the TDA going to put the chamber out of business? Would the TDA help fund chamber events? Could the two organizations coexist? That’s when I got a call from Kent Tarbutton of Chetola Resort to look at the Executive Director position for the TDA. Kent knew that Charles and I would get along and work to do what is right for both organizations but most importantly, the Town of Blowing Rock. We’ve been working together now for about 20 years. We’ve moved locations a couple of times but have always landed in the same place when it comes to working together for the betterment of our community,” said Brown. Throughout his tenure as the chamber president, Hardin has focused his efforts on member retention more so than spending all their time and resources finding new members. “What we need to do is make sure that we are doing the right things for our members and keeping them happy over


the long haul, and we can stem that constant turnover. We worked on our numbers very hard to retain members, I think the highest we ever got to was 97 percent one year. We usually stay around 95 percent. That is what has gotten us some awards across the state. That is a number that is very hard for chambers to do,” said Hardin. “Contact is the big way to retain members. We had six times scheduled out on a spreadsheet that we would have with them, something in particular to do. Board members, staff, myself, we were all involved with that. We would go visit our new members, we would keep a record of all of that on a spreadsheet. We would have board members that would contact them and invite them to Business After Hours events. New members are the ones that turnover the fastest.” Hardin says that most chambers average an 80-percent retention rate among their members, so seeing numbers in the mid to high 90s in Blowing Rock is certainly something they are very proud of.

More Than Just a Voice for Businesses

The Blowing Rock Chamber of Com-

Charles is pictured here in a classic car during the annual Blowing Rock Christmas Parade where the Chamber is always a participant. merce under Hardin’s leadership has shown that they are willing to go that extra mile to organize and host events that benefit residents and visitors just as much as local businesses. Art in the Park, Symphony by the Lake, WinterFest and the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival are just

a few of the events that the chamber has played an important role in bringing to Blowing Rock. The chamber is a 501 (c) 6 non-profit that is governed by a board of directors. Currently, there are around 20 people on the board and board seats are dedicated to

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

53


Charles frequently finds himeslf behind the podium conducting meetings and presentations. different aspects of the community, including hotels and lodging, restaurants and retail businesses. The board also includes residential members, both individuals, and couples that call Blowing Rock home. The residential spots are something that Charles really values having on the board. “I have been a big promoter of this. The reason I want these residents is that we have so many retired business executives and CEOs, individuals that have such vast experience that come into our town and are not ready to just retire and play golf all they. They are able to apply that and give back,” said Hardin. “The President of the American Hotels Association, the CEO of Gold Toe, a Fortune 500 CEO and a principal in the second-largest law firm in Atlanta have all been on the board. Where else can you get that kind of talent that is very engaged and contribute so much to the organization? It has been wonderful to have those people, but we do get some criticism for having those people on the board every now and then.” Charles doesn’t just send chamber employees out to work on these events, you can guarantee he is out there himself for hours to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. “His work ethic is strong and undeniable. On Art in the Park Saturdays, he’s up at 3 a.m. getting the work done to welcome thousands of visitors to each event, putting out directional signage, managing staff and vendors, so that when a show opens, Blowing Rock shines,” said Brown. “It’s fun coming in on those days, mid-afternoon, and see him in that big comfy chair in his office catching a quick nap. Ask him what he’s doing, and he’ll 54

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

invariably say ‘just resting my eyes.’ I’ll always quip back ‘take a nap Charles, you’ve earned it.’” Maybe one of the most positive creations of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce has been the Village Foundation, another non-profit separate from what the chamber does. The foundation has been able to raise money for several projects, including additional sidewalks, the Middle Fork Greenway, public art and cultural offerings and additional winter attractions for Blowing Rock. “We needed to set up the foundation for something that would relate to the chamber mission, which was the economic development side. It has been set up for economic development specifically for lessening the burdens of government and also doing business education. It has grown up, we’re still involved with it, our staff still works on all their stuff, but it has gotten to be what we hoped it would be and we would be able to raise money for some very nice projects in town,” Hardin said.

Charles and His Impact on Blowing Rock

It’s difficult to pin down just one or two projects and one or two people that have seen the first-hand accomplishments of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce under Charles Hardin’s leadership. From the early days of around 100 mem-

bers and a small budget to today with five times as many members and enough of a budget to invest in community attractions, the changes in Blowing Rock over the last 16 years since Charles took over have been very visible. “Charles has been a real asset to the chamber, this town and all of the High Country region. You know who you’re dealing with; he’s honest, smart, thoughtful and humble. Many times, folks in high-profile positions are all about getting in front of people and being the guy with all the answers. Not Charles. He’s not one to ‘crow’ about what he has done or try and take credit when he indeed deserves it. The people of Blowing Rock know that about him and respect him immensely because of it. This community is a better place because of his leadership,” said Tracy Brown. Cathy Robbins is the Director of Marketing at Tweetsie Railroad. She knows Charles as someone who is quiet behind the scenes but really gets the job done. “Charles is just great to work with and he has done so much for Blowing Rock and put his heart into helping all of the businesses. He lives there, it’s his community, and he has really brought the chamber forward getting a strategic plan together. I think Blowing Rock has done a great job in moving the community forward while trying to keep the charm of the community,” said Robbins. “He is very dedicated to the chamber. He’s been doing it for a

After Charles took the position of Chamber president, his wife said he deserved a nice new desk to go along with his new position. That desk is still the one Charles sits down at every day to begin his work. Photo by Lonnie Webster

April / May 2021


long time and he is so dedicated to the members and the staff. I feel like we are fortunate to have him as our chamber director. In this pandemic, he reached out to all the members and that was really nice during a hard time. I think you needed to know someone was out there supporting you in the community and we really appreciated it.” Lee Carol Giduz has been involved with the chamber in several different capacities and is currently the Executive Director of the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM). She admires Charles for his loyalty and his many qualities that show he is a successful leader. “He cares passionately about Blowing Rock and I think he has a lot of visions for Blowing Rock. The chamber was one of the earliest institutions that embraced BRAHM. Certainly, there were people that didn’t want the museum to be here, so it was nice to have that foundation of support from a group of people that matter,” she said. “When I first met Charles I thought he had no sense of humor, but I have come to learn that he definitely has a sense of humor, but it’s that guardedness that he has that makes sure he is not misinterpreted or not misread. I like to kid and joke and make fun, it took a while to make sure that was okay to do with Charles but he does have a sense of humor and when you see that little twinkle in his eye, you know you have cracked through. We are lucky to have him, he has really given a lot to this community and it shows. He has time and again been underrecognized for his role in things that happened in this community because he does it without asking for recognition.” Working alongside Charles is Suzy Barker, the Events and Communications Specialist for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. She has been there for two years and saw first-hand everything he tried to do for local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m really proud of the work we’ve done recently and it’s hard not to be proud of Charles and his leadership during that time. Looking back on that, that’s why I love working for him so much. I’m really lucky. I think anybody that is really close to Charles would say he is very calm, cool and collected on the surface. Inside his wheels are turning like what do we do, but he can keep that cool face during a crisis,” said Barker. “Charles is a western North Carolina native. This community embodies who Charles is. Helping your neighbor, knowing the person that brings us our UPS packages, taking the time to know the postmaster’s name. You don’t get that anywhere else but here. Charles is definitely the person to stop and

Haircut

MASK

SHUT UP & GET A HAIRCUT! HAIRCUT 101

1 7 4 S D E P OT ST RE E T | B OON E

828.262.3324

April / May 2021

hai r c u t 1 0 1 .com

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

55


History of the Chamber

T

he Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce has been in and out of its current location on Main Street numerous times. Now, the chamber has purchased the building and will hopefully be there for the foreseeable future. The house was constructed in 1903 by Grover Robbins and he lived there with his family until he died. “The building was their home, they raised four children here, and Mr. Robbins also started the chamber there in 1927. The chamber was formalized and incorporated in 1963,” said Charles Hardin.

The chamber moved out on the bypass with the TDA and the building was sold to an investor in Charlotte who worked on the property and fixed it up some. “We came back over here in 2010 and started leasing the building then and the TDA joined us after that. We rented it for a number of years and we set up the Village Foundation as a way to be able to acquire the building as a non-profit, but that never happened,” Hardin said. The landlord eventually decided to sell it and the chamber purchased the property about four years ago. Before the chamber purchased the building, there had been many stories of people feeling like the ghost of Grover Robbins was inside the house. “There had always been rumors that there was a ghost in the building and we have had several experiences with that, including myself, hearing cabinet doors open and close in the kitchen at night after everybody is gone and it’s dark in here. The most telling one is the night I came in here and I was turning off the light and I felt something on my hand. It scared me. That was the one where I felt like Grover was here,” Hardin said. “Since we have bought the building, I think he has calmed down and gone on now. He’s happy that we’re here.”

home, I get to see a more playful side know someone’s name and to care of him than most people do because about those things. I think that’s why he is very professional at work and he thrives here so well.” always has that professional face on. One of the closest working relaHe lets his hair down a little more at tionships anyone has with Charles home. He might come up and grab in Blowing Rock belongs to John Alme and dance a single a little song dridge. He’s lived in Blowing Rock for together, something like that,” Marabout 20 years, served as the president garet continued. of the chamber’s board and the chairEveryone knows when Charles is person of economic development. He around, because of his iconic hairdo said the last four to five years he has that Charles said that he has gotten worked closely with Charles during so used to because he can just take a that time. shower and head straight to work and “I’ve always said Charles is not never have to worry about fixing his the loud, back-slapping type of perhair. Most everyone in Blowing Rock son. He’s very thoughtful and he’s also knows when he’s around if they perfect for Blowing Rock. I grew up see his bronze Ford Expedition either in Mount Airy and small towns can parked near the chamber or at whatbe very difficult. But Charles is the ever business or event he’s out at. type of leader that gets things done Margaret says they are hoping to and gets them done in a quiet way, retire in about three years. which is exactly what is needed in a “What I want to do more than place like Blowing Rock. He is really Charles has said that he is planning on anything is sit in the rocking chair a terrific fit for a town like Blowing retiring in about three and a half years and that on our deck and read a book. I’m Rock,” Aldrige explained. “Charles the chamber board will be meeting later this is a great guy, I can’t imagine what year to create a strategic plan for his successor. looking more towards relaxing, but I’m sure Charles has a list of things we would do without him. The genhe wants to do,” she laughed. “He eration of civic leadership in Blowing Charles more than his wife. Margaret Rock is getting pretty old so developing knew from the second he took the cham- loves to work out in the yard, I think it’s new leaders is pretty important. When I ber job that this was something he wanted very therapeutic for him. He’s always got came on the chamber board, Charles was to do, even if he hasn’t always been a huge some kind of project going on. Sometimes fairly new and the board really needed fan of public speaking and might appear to I can get him to go out to Bass Lake for a walk with me because that’s what I really development and he was terrific. Both the be the shy type. Village Foundation and the chamber have “Nobody loves Blowing Rock more love to do. He loves to hike and camp, two of the strongest boards in Blowing than Charles. He is Blowing Rock’s best he likes to golf but he doesn’t get to do Rock. He has been a terrific, quiet leader advocate and is absolutely passionate that very often. One thing that I think he really enjoys doing is cooking. He has for Blowing Rock and we have been very about it,” she said. lucky to have him.” “Charles is a very laid back, calm promised me that when he retires, we are No one gets a chance to see the real person. He’s that way at home too. At going to cook more together.” t 56

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


WHERE MAIN STREET A ND LU X U RY MEE T

ASHLEY HUTCHENS

LOCATED ON THE BLUE RIDGE Parkway atop the Eastern Continental Divide, in

C 828.964.5438 O 828.295.0776

– a private enclave of 23 single-story luxury residences surrounded by lush natural

the idyllic village of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, awaits Chestnut at Blowing Rock scenery, unmatched views and modern conveniences. Redefining luxury living,

Ashley.Hutchens@PremierSir.com

Chestnut at Blowing Rock features open and airy living spaces, natural finishes and towering windows designed to showcase breathtaking vistas of Moses Cone Memorial Park and Grandfather Mountain State Park. The quaint and charming shops and restaurants of Main Street are minutes from your doorstep. Discover

ChestnutAtBlowingRock.com

elegant living in a casual setting at Chestnut at Blowing Rock.

Each office is independently owned and operated.

ChestnutAtBlowingRock.com

Each office is independently owned and operated.

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

57


Finding Grace Through the

Covid Journey

Allen and Susan Curtis Tell Their Miraculous Story By Sherrie Norris

L

78. Susan took him to Watauga Medical ocal businessman Allen Curtis reFear and Isolation — A Center. The last thing Allen remembers is turned to his home in the Meat Heartbreaking Scenario the shower. Camp community February 16 after Allen’s illness came quickly, with sympNot allowed to stay with him, Susan spending 157 days in four different health toms beginning the last of September. returned home. care settings from the devastating effects Planning to be tested on Monday, Al“He called me after he was admitof COVID-19. len actually felt OK on Sunday, (October ted and he sounded good,” she said. “He Just days before his early October di5). His oxygen levels were good and his called again Tuesday and sounded really agnosis, Allen and his wife, Susan, were good, but at some point later making memories, visiting orthat night he got worse.” chards off the mountain, buying When he called Wednesday apples for their Fruits, Veggies morning, he was gasping for air. and More store on King Street “It was the worst thing I had in Boone. With their three adult ever heard. He said he was going children — Samantha, Bethany on the ventilator, that he loved and Jonathan — out of the me and to tell the kids he loved home, they had settled into their them. That was it. The phone empty nest lifestyle and loved it. went dead — and life changed.” They were looking forward to That same day, Susan was many good times ahead. also diagnosed with COVID, Workdays were typically but had only mild symptoms. long followed by quiet dinners On October 13, Allen was and restful evenings in front flown by helicopter to Wake of the TV. Special family time Forest Baptist Medical Center in centered about their five grandWinston Salem, where he stayed children — Gracie, Lilly, Ethan, until December 5. Mya and Bella. He was then transferred to Little did they know that life Asheville Specialty Hospital for would take an unexpected and ventilator weaning and rehabilifrightful turn when Allen was tation. He was there until the diagnosed with the corona virus. end of January when transferred In retrospect, they agree, the Susan Curtis stayed as close as she could to her husband, Allen, to Catawba Valley Medical Cenjourney has been anything but during his 157 days of hospitalization due to Covid. ter for more intense rehab. easy, ripping apart their family temp stayed around 100. The couple spent Two weeks later, he came home, still for nearly four months, resulting in astrothe day watching TV and relaxing. requiring much care and assistance. nomical medical bills, loss of substantial After an afternoon shower, Allen laid “I was fearful at times, but I knew fear income — and most recently forcing them down on the bed. His oxygen dropped to was unbelief,” said Susan. “I tried not to go to close their business. 58

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


“When I was not able to see or be with Allen, it was heartbreaking. But, I knew that no matter what happened, God was in control and He had a plan and a purpose.” Susan Curtis there. This virus is so isolating and when I was not able to see or be with Allen, it was heartbreaking. But, I knew that no matter what happened, God was in control and He had a plan and a purpose.”

Reality Sets In

Their situation was not something they intended to broadcast, at first anyway, but eventually Susan decided to share her heartache through social media, something she never dreamed at the time would become a ministry of its own. Susan took a leave of absence from Samaritan’s Purse, where she has worked since 2013; she took up residence at the Winston Salem-based family house supported by the NC State Employees Credit Union and close to the hospital to be near her husband. Due to visitor restrictions, she didn’t see him face-to-face until November 7. She gave almost daily reports via social media of Allen’s condition, asked for continued prayer and offered praise for God’s protection, while also including devotionals and words of encouragement to others facing hard times. In turn, she received much needed support and prayerful responses that helped her through the long,

As Allen Curtis listened to worship music from his hospital bed, he was completely lost in praise and thankfulness despite his weakened state. tiring and often lonely journey. People all over the world were praying for Allen, Susan shared — 24-hour prayer vigils at their church, zoom prayer meetings at Samaritan’s Purse, mission affiliates, and others. A touching video showed a 10-year old girl in Lusaka, Zambia, who with 100 of her schoolmates and their parents were all praying for Allen. One of the hardest things to deal with, Susan admits, is when the doctor in Winton Salem called and told her she needed to come to the hospital, to say whatever she needed to say to Allen — because it

didn’t look like he would make it. “Baptist Hospital isn’t that far away, but it seemed like a million miles,” she described. “Allen still tested positive for Covid, so they wouldn’t let anyone in the room but me” It was a somber day, she recalled, having to meet with the doctor and staff before seeing Allen. “I made it clear to the doctor that I was not there to tell my husband goodbye. I was there to pray over him, sing over him and call our children so they could talk to him. It was hard to see the man I loved laying in that bed with a tube

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

59


Susan and Allen are pictured with a unique 34th anniversary gift from two special nurses they became close to in Winston Salem. Called “Twinkle in Time,” it depicts the star pattern that was visible on the night of their wedding day, March 15, 1987, in Elk Park. In sickness and health, this couple’s marriage vows remain intact through it all. down his throat.” When she returned home, Susan and her children made a CD, telling Allen how much they loved and needed him, which she took back to the hospital and asked the staff to play it for him every day. Among the worst parts of the virus, Susan said, is the isolation for the patient and family. “In the beginning, it was hard to be at home without him, but at least I was in my comfort zone with my family. In Winston Salem, I was able to be with him every day for about a month, once I was permitted to visit. I would get there at 9 in the morning and stay until 8 at night, seven days a week. At Asheville I would go in at 7:30

a.m. to help Allen with breakfast and stay until 8 at night. Leaving him every night was so hard. There was nothing to do but place in him the Lord’s hands.” On December 18, with no warning, she learned that visitation was cut off due to an increase in Covid cases. “It was awful. By that time, Allen was able to eat again, but his appetite was terrible, so I had been preparing him three meals a day. Even though I could not physically visit him, a nurse met me in the lobby and took the food to him. He could talk on his cell by that point, so it was better than before, but still hard.” Susan’s social media posts continued to relay the twists and turns of Allen’s illness.

Seven weeks into the journey, she said that he was making progress: “He breathed on his own for five hours today. Tomorrow, for the first time in seven weeks, he will be sitting in a chair. Pray for peace as he continues to wean off of the trach ventilator.” And, at the same time, while admitting the difficulties her family was facing, Susan was quick to thank those who were loving them and praying for them, never hesitating to say, “God has been so good to us.” And something she described as “an incredible experience.” As late November rolled around, and families everywhere planning Thanksgiving like never before, Susan shared

Not so long ago, Allen Curtis enjoyed interacting with friends, visitors, students and even Yosef at his store. At right, the Curtis family business, Fruits,Veggies and More, located on King Street, was forced to close due to Allen’s illness. 60

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


Reunited and it feels so good. Together again after visitor restrictions kept them apart for weeks. Much of Allen Curtis’s illness required time on a ventilator with a feeding tube, oxygen and more.

how her family was experiencing a true Thanksgiving blessing. “Allen is still weak and will require rehab to gain his strength back and will also have to be weaned from the trach ventilator — and that can be a slow process. We still have a long road in front of us, and if I think too far in the future, it can be overwhelming.” While able to talk (some) over the trach, Allen’s words were raspy and in broken sentences. Thanks to a special speech therapist, he was able to use a speaking valve through the ventilator, generally not permitted with Covid patients “When you haven’t used your lungs or your vocal cords for almost two months, they are weak, and speaking can be difficult,” Susan described. “My husband used the first words he had spoken in weeks to

give glory and honor to our Savior and to witness to the staff in the room. It was pure praise and worship.” He also told Susan, several times, that he loved her. “Just to hear those words was the most beautiful sound,” she said with tears in her eyes. “God is good.” Normally on that night, Susan would have been prepping for a big family Thanksgiving. “This year I am alone with my thoughts and thankfulness,” she said on Facebook. “Tomorrow I will spend the day in the hospital, thanking God that I have another day with my love.” She was joined by her daughter, Bethany, on Thanksgiving evening, “far from the normal Curtis Thanksgiving,” she said. “But we are more thankful this year than

ever before.” Still extremely weak, and unable to sit on the bedside for more than five minutes at a time, Allen continued to make progress daily. Plans were soon set into motion for a move to Asheville Specialty Hospital to begin rehabilitation. His family hoped to have him home for Christmas Day, which was also his birthday. On Nov 29 “another great day,” he was able to talk to his children, his dad and a few friends. “The staff was amazed by the strength of his voice after two months — and impressed by his faith,” Susan recalled. Soon, passing a swallowing test meant he could eat real food. On December 1, after weeks of receiving nourishment from a feeding tube — and

Allen Curtis maintains a peaceful look upon his face even in the midst of his storm. / Word searches were a way to pass the time during Allen’s long hospitalizations, and something he and Susan loved to do together as he began regaining strength. / Allen Curtis is dressed and ready for his transfer from Asheville to the rehab facility in Hickory, his last stop before coming home. April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

61


Allen and Susan Curtis are happy to be home again, where loving, compassionate care is available around the clock and no visitor restrictions separate them. deemed nothing short of a miracle by the staff — Allen ate meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and the mac and cheese.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Granddaughter Lilly, had left this message on the family refrigerator in November. It said. “Pappy will be better than ever. It’s just going to take some time. We are ALL praying. God is just fixing him up a bit.”

62

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

On December 3, the ventilator was removed from Allen’s room. Exactly two months to the day their journey began, Allen left by ambulance for the Asheville Specialty Hospital with Susan close behind. It was with gratitude and hope that they made the move; at the same time, it was bittersweet, Susan admitted, leaving many wonderful friends at the hospital and the SECU house. Allen settled in and felt at peace, he told Susan. The staff was welcoming and incredible from the start. After eight weeks, the feeding tube was removed and Allen was gaining strength, But then, his oxygen levels dropped and he was forced back on the ventilator. “Covid can do horrible things to your lungs and the healing process is long,” Susan explained. “When you are

April / May 2021

as sick as Allen has been with Covid, it is such a roller coaster ride. You feel like you are making great progress and then something happens and you take two steps back.” Thankfully, she said, he stayed fully awake. “He couldn’t talk because you can’t have the talking valve with the ventilator, so that was very difficult, but we managed.” He also had to have the feeding tube replaced, Susan said, “which made us both very sad.” Allen remained on the ventilator and the feeding tube for a few more days. In the meantime, he wanted to hear their special song — “‘Praise Before My Breakthrough.” “The presence of the Lord was very strong,” Susan recalled. “We both cried and praised the Lord, and in the midst of it, Allen was able to lift his left arm off the bed and move his fingers freely. He had not been able to do that before. We both knew it was God and we felt his presence in that room. The staff was visibly impacted, as well. “His nurse came in the room and was moved to tears and a CNA was obviously impacted and said


she felt chills. “ By mid-December, Allen’s sense of humor returned, along with his familiar smile. However, with increasing COVD cases, visitation was restricted after the first two weeks, leaving Susan unable to spend time with her husband, but she continued to prepare his meals at the Rathbun House, and deliver them three times a day. The Rathbun House was a blessing on so many levels, just as the SECU House was in Winston Salem, Susan shared. “ Once visitation was cut off, there were very few people at the Rathbun. It was mostly moms with NICU babies and me. The staff became like family. My little room was my sanctuary. I cried many tears and prayed many prayers in that room. Being alone in Winston Salem and then at Asheville for weeks on end was not easy, Susan admitted. “The staff at both places were compassionate and kind people, but I was very lonely. Each time I was in Walmart or a grocery store I desperately wished to see someone I knew.” Thanks to a nurse in Asheville who had placed a red heart for her on Allen’s window, she still felt connected to him. “I would sit in the parking lot looking at that red heart and pray for Allen. Sometimes I stood in the parking lot with my hands raised toward that heart as I prayed. I was far beyond caring about what anyone thought.”

Still, Susan shared, “We know the Lord is faithful and will walk alongside us during the rest of the journey.” Prior to transfer, Allen was moved to a progressive care unit, and when Susan finally got to see him, after a month apart, she found him to have regained strength and was able to do things for himself. After 53 days in Asheville, with Susan at the Rathbun House, Allen was on his way to Catawba Valley Medical Inpatient Rehab in Hickory for the final phase of rehab before going home. “Covid had left Allen very weak, but he had determination, and most importantly, he had the Lord fighting his battles,” Susan

said. “I asked for people to pray that Allen would feel a new surge of strength in his arms, legs and feet and that he would take steps very soon.” That same evening, Susan reluctantly left Allen to rest and focus on the intense rehab that awaited. At 6:21 p.m., she walked into their home for the first time in almost three months.

Good to Be Back Home Again

Although completely exhausted, Susan said it was good to be home again. “I am so thankful for my sweet brother, Ronnie (Winebarger), who took care of things while we were gone, and to our

Making Steps Forward Into the New Year

Three months after Allen contracted Covid, he was able to take a step or two, a huge milestone. His breathing was still being supported by a trach collar during the day and he was on the ventilator at night. On New Year’s Eve, Susan posted that while 2020 had been difficult, their family was still blessed to have Allen with them to ring in another year. “We are praising God for every step of success along the way.” By mid-January, Allen had logged 100 days of hospitalization, with improvement daily. His trach was removed and he was breathing on his own with the help of some oxygen. He was out of his hospital room in a wheelchair for the first time, with many cheers from the staff as he rolled down the hall. Discharge plans to a rehab facility had begun, for “intense physical and occupational therapy,” Susan recalled. Progress continued, but at a slow pace.

Less than half the children in foster care graduate from high school and only 3% of those complete a college degree. You can CHANGE THE FUTURE for a child in foster care. Apply TODAY to become a foster parent.

www.crossnore.org/foster-care-licensing

CROSSNORE school & children’s home

HC-FosterParents-halfpage-AprMay 2021.indd 1

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

3/18/2021 2:22:02 PM

63


Allen Curtis holds the heart that was kept in his hospital window. It was more than just a heart in a window, it was something that kept Susan Curtis connected to her husband during his hospitalization when visiting was not permitted. Allen would like to express his heartfelt thanks to everyone who has offered love, support, encouragement, prayers and assistance of any kind to him and his family during his lengthy illness.

Locally owned and operated for over 35 years in the High Country

C E N T U RY 21 Mountain Vistas

C21MV.com | 828-264-9111 202 Southgate Drive, Suite 19 Boone NC Each Century 21 office is independently owned and operated

kids who helped us all they could the whole time.” By Monday morning, a pile of mail had been sorted and Susan returned to work. “I had really missed my Samaritans Purse family,” she said. “Their love and support has been more than I could ever have asked for.” Among the cards, letters, calls and notes that awaited her return, Susan said, was a precious note that granddaughter, Lilly, had left on the fridge in November. It said. “Pappy will be better than ever. It’s just going to take some time. We are ALL praying. God is just fixing him up a bit.” As plans began for Allen’s homecoming, men of Cornerstone Covenant Church were there to build a wheelchair ramp; Susan was seeing to other details and arranging for in-home care. On February 15, Susan, shared, after 133 days in the hospital, Allen was working very hard, but not without getting tired and discouraged. The respiratory therapist who came in to give Allen a breathing treatment, told

Proof 2 Ifor toA run 64 H G H 1/6-page C O U N T Rad Y M G A Zin I N CML’s E April / May 2021 Winter 20 issue. (Note: all low resolution images resolved!)

him she had worked with him at Watauga when he first got sick, and didn’t think he would make it. “Look at you now!” she said. Allen was discouraged at the time, hoping to be much farther along than he was, but those words reminded of how far he had come. “The Lord sent her into Allen’s room just when we needed encouragement,” Susan added. The very next day was the day many had prayed for. Allen was discharged to come home. “We were beyond grateful to God,” both he and Susan agreed. “ We still have a journey in front of us, but we do not walk alone. The Lord has been faithful and is taking what Satan meant for evil and creating a powerful testimony!” A few days later, however, Allen had to return to Watauga Medical Center by ambulance, admitted for a few days with breathing/oxygen and fluid issues. “We were blessed to get him there when we did,” Susan said. “He could have


We're a Scenic Attraction

• Licensed Pesticide Sprayer • Septic Tank Installation • Hydro-Seeding • Excavating • Boulder Walls • Waterfalls

Hwy. 105 in Linville at the foot of Grandfather Mountain 828.733.3726 | Design • Installation • Maintainance April / May 2021

Member: NC Nursery & Landscaping Association

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

65


The Curtis’s oldest daughter, Samantha, son in law and grandchildren. gone into heart failure — but God…” At the same time, It was “very interesting, “Susan shared, to be back where their journey began in October. “The staff who had taken care of Allen when he first contracted Covid thought he was going to be another sad statistic,” she added. “We heard over and over how sick he was and how no one thought he would make it. Two times now we have heard that Allen was the sickest patient in ICU — once at Watauga and once at Wake Forest.”

Ready To Make New Memories

Allen and Susan are back home now and ready to make new memories. In reflecting, they agree that God was with them the entire time, and that He also placed the right people in the right place at just the right time. “There are no words to describe the cruelty of this virus, but God is bigger and still on the throne,” Susan said. “Even though there are times I felt very alone, I am blessed with a wonderful family that kept a close check on me. Our children, my mother, my brothers and so many more. Our church family has been our rock. My work family has been more supportive than anyone could ever have asked for. They have loved me and held

The Curtis’s son Jonathan, daughter in law Taylor, grandchildren Mya, the youngest and Bella. my arms up when I was too weary to do it for myself. Samaritan’s Purse has been such a blessing on so many levels. Prayers were raised for us every day. I was able to be away and care for Allen without having to worry about my job.” “God has been faithful. The prayer warriors who have surrounded us have held our arms and hearts when we couldn’t stand have been our blessing.” Medical science cannot explain how Allen survived this vicious virus, but we know that God has never left us and He won’t. To everyone who has prayed, sent cards, messages, or assisted financially, Susan said, “Your kindness will not be forgotten and your prayers have been heard. His grace has been sufficient for us.” Did he fear dying? As a strong believer, Allen didn’t fear death itself. His fear was leaving Susan, their children and grandchildren. There were times his recovery seemed bleak, Susan admitted. “The first time I saw Allen when he was awake, he was so weak he literally could not lift his hands off of the bed. He had a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. He wasn’t able to speak, but he could mouth words. Communication was difficult, but he was able to get his point across and he

The Curtis’s middle child Bethany Curtis.

was grateful to be alive, but he had no idea what had happened or why he was in the hospital. Even then, I believed that the God who kept him alive when it looked like he would die was the same God who would bring him home.” And He did. We asked the couple to share their thoughts about a Covid patient going through the journey alone, without loved ones present. It’s a hard call, they admitted. “At the very least they should permit one family member to be there. “We have to keep patients and staff safe, but there has to be balance. People who are sick need their family members. Family members need to see what is going on in person. “It’s hard to get a phone call asking your permission for them to shock your husband’s heart — or that he may have a collapsed lung. Being there, asking questions, seeing him for myself, would have made this much more bearable.” Their “most jarring experience” happened in Winston, said Susan. “Allen had not been out of the bed in weeks. He was so weak and still had a bad pressure sore from not being turned properly. PT wanted him to get up in a chair for two hours, which was unreasonable. He was in such pain and begging to

CUMULATIVE COVID NUMBERS AS OF APRIL 1, 2021 Positive Case Count

COVID19 Related Deaths

First Dose Administered

Watauga 4489 Avery 1995 Ashe 2113

Watauga 31 Avery 20 Ashe 44

Watauga 9694 Avery 5145 Ashe 5935

66

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

World Count US Cases US Deaths World Deaths

30,332,259 550,071 2,794,174


get back in bed. A male nurse told Allen he could sit in the chair for two hours or go to a nursing home and die. The lack of compassion was awful.” What was done “just right” we asked? “There were nurses who made all the difference in Winston and Asheville. Nurses who care and take the time to care for the whole patient.” Any words for those front line workers? “ Thank you for caring. Thank you for loving my husband when I couldn’t be there. Thank you for the extras, such as the red heart on the window.” Life is different for the Curtis family these day, but they are relieved and happy to have everyone home again. “We are a team,” Susan said. “Allen is getting stronger every day and will be walking soon.” Currently, he is in a wheelchair and sleeps in a hospital bed in the living room, surrounded by “all kinds of medical equipment.” He has some short term memory issues, but overall his cognitive abilities are excellent. “God has carried us this far in this journey and He finishes what he starts. Allen’s big plan it to be back in Gambia, West Africa later this year or early next.” They had to close the produce business recently, but Susan said. “Chances are you will see Allen set up outside somewhere selling strawberries and blackberries when they are in season.” Any advice for other families facing difficult times? “Revel in the ordinary days, because those are the days you will long for when they’re gone. Take the time to tell those you love how precious they are to you — but also take the time to show it. Live a life that honors God. Trust Him when things seem to fall apart. Life is fragile. We were living life and things were normal one day and the next my husband was at the point of death. We have no control. Life and death are in God’s hands . . . and if you don’t know the Lord, it’s time.” How have you come through this better people? “Our relationship with the Lord has grown. Our faith and trust in the sovereignty of an almighty God is stronger than ever.” Susan said she knew there would come a day when they would be able to tell their story — and it would be filled with the goodness of God. “Yes, there have been days filled with tears and even fears, but God understands. Those parts of the story will move your heart, but the victory that is coming will rock your soul.” t

It’s

TREASURE Goodwill stores are packed with a treasure trove of unique items.

The Good We Do Is Because of You | GooodwillNWNC.org

SUMMER CAMP!

Explore Wild Things at Banner Elk, NC

www.HolstonCenter.org (844) 465-7866 April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

67


Their

Specialty Boone Bagelry Troy’s Diner & Sunrise Grill

BREAKFAST ALL DAY

68

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

Boone Bagelry


Troy’s Diner

What A Treat Fun Meal with Family & Friends Story by Harley Nefe • Photos by Ken Ketchie

B

reakfast — also known as the most important meal of the day — is how many people start the day off right. From common entrees like waffles topped with fresh fruit, pancakes smeared with butter and drizzled with syrup, to omelets served with sausage or bacon, there are many breakfast meals that people prefer to get their morning nutrients and energy by. Sides such as warm hash browns, scrambled eggs, bagels with cream cheese and toast or biscuits with jelly can’t be forgotten either. All

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

69


these yummy foods are often enjoyed with a mug of coffee mixed with as much cream and sugar as one can desire, a cold glass of milk or a refreshing cup of juice. There are many restaurants in the High Country that serve a delicious breakfast, but there is something different about local places that serve breakfast all day, and the atmosphere it creates. “Breakfast all day is a real selling point for us,” said Sandra “Sandy” Byrum, coowner of Troy’s 105 Diner. “We often sell just as much breakfast through the afternoons and early evenings as we do during the day. One of the most asked questions we get is — do you sell breakfast all day? I think serving breakfast all day in a resort area is a really important selling point because people are on vacation, and they want breakfast all day.” Sandy continued to say that she finds her restaurant to be lucky that it’s in an area that has a lot of other great breakfast joints. Troy’s 105 Diner serves a typical hearty, old-fashioned breakfast, but there are other places that sell benedicts, quiches and morning sandwiches. “We are in an area where there are choices for all,” Sandy said. “I like being one of the breakfast restaurants in Boone, and to my fellow breakfast restaurateurs, I appreciate what they are doing, and we often go to see them.” Conner Snyder, who is currently transitioning to be one of the new owners of Troy’s 105 Diner, said you can’t beat the atmosphere of breakfast-specialty restaurants. “Everybody’s in a good mood,” Conner said. “It’s morning time, and you’re at a breakfast place getting some really good breakfast. You can come in with your family and drink coffee and have a good time.

That’s something that can’t be matched anywhere else at different restaurants.” Donna Nicastro, who is the co-owner of Boone Bagelry, has also seen her fair share of breakfast all day fans and the customers that seek out that option. “The breakfast oriented all day concept has always been here,” Donna said. “People really like it. A lot of people like to have breakfast for lunch or dinner.” Liam Hunter’s family owns Sunrise

Sunrise Grill Grill, and he said, “We often do family breakfast dinners, and growing up, that was the favorite night of the week. It’s like a comfort thing.” Another reason why breakfast all day is popular is that it allows for more variety when families or friend groups go out to eat. If someone is wanting a burger for lunch while the other person wants french toast, all day breakfast locations can satisfy every craving. “Every age gap has that group of people who are all about the all day breakfast,” said Justin “J.B.” Byrum, who is

also transitioning to be one of the new owners of Troy’s 105 Diner. “It’s hard to put them into a distinct category because there are so many people who come in for it. I think a lot of people are those who don’t have the normal breakfast routine or can’t come in every morning for breakfast. They don’t have time to make themselves eggs or an omelet in the morning. It’s great for them to be able to come in and not have to worry about what time they come in, and they can get their morning breakfast. And for a lot of people, that meal is what starts their day.” There are many different types of all day breakfast customers including older folks who grab a meal together after church between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and order their usual go-to breakfast items. There are college students who wake up later on the weekends and decide to come in late in the day to receive their breakfast fix to help them feel a little better after a long night or they may go out late at night to fill up their stomachs. Individuals work in all different industries and eat at various times. Many families choose to do breakfast for dinner nights with their children after a busy day. Whatever the reason is that prompts people to order these sorts of meals, one thing is known for sure — being able to eat breakfast food at any time of the day is popular among the public. Some of the locally-owned restaurants that pride themselves on serving breakfast all day include Boone Bagelry, which has been around for 33 years; Troy’s 105 Diner, which is in the process of transitioning to new ownership; and Sunrise Grill, which is looking forward to the bright future ahead.

OTHER LOCAL BREAKFAST SPOTS IN WATUGA AND AVERY COUNTIES Banner Elk Cafe - Serving breakfast from 7:00 am to 11:00 am in BANNER ELK at 324 Shawneehaw Avenue. 828-898-4040. Open Daily Grandview Restaurant - Serving breakfast from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm in FOSCOE at 10575 Highway 105 South. 828-963-4573. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays Fred’s Backside Deli - Serving breakfast from 7:30 am to 11:00 am on BEECH MOUNTAIN at 501 Beech Mountain Parkway. 828387-4838. Open Daily 70

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

Papa Joe’s Restaurant - Serving breakfast from 7:30 am to 11:00 am in BLOWING ROCK at 8062 Valley Blyd. 828-295-3239. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays Sunny Rock Eggs and Things Serving breakfast from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm in BLOWING ROCK at 8146 Vallet Blyd. 828-414-9636. Closed Sundays Mary’s Kitchen - Serving breakfast from 5:00 am to 11:00 am in BOONE at 486 George Wilson Road. 828-386-1187. Closed Sundays April / May 2021

Famous Toastery - Serving breakfast from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm in BLOWING ROCK at 349 Sunset Drive. 828-414-9813. Open Daily Dunn’s Deli - Serving breakfast from 9:00 am to 11:00 am in BANNER ELK at 134 Main Street. 828-898-6731. Open Daily Melanies Food Fantasy - Serving breakfast from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm in BOONE at 664 West King Street. 828-263-0300. Open Daily Stick Boy Kitchen - Serving breakfast from 7:00 am to 6:30 pm in BOONE

at 211 Boone Heights Drive. 828265-4141. Closed Sundays Bella’s Breakfast & Lunch - Serving breakfast from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm in BANNER ELK. 828-898-2594. Closed Wednesdays Kaye’s Kitchen - Serving breakfast from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm in NEWLAND at 503 Pineola Street. 828737-0314. Closed Wednesdays Thompson Seafood and Country Cooking - Serving breakfast from 7:00 am to 11:00 am in DEEP GAP at 5714 Old Highway 421. 828265-4300. Closed Sundays


33 Years of Boone Bagelry

W

hat started out as selling a bagel and coffee for only 50 cents in 1988, Boone Bagelry has now been serving delectable meals for 33 years. Conveniently located in Downtown Boone on W. King Street, Boone Bagelry has been locally owned and operated by husband and wife Tony and Donna Nicastro, who have had many experiences that they will never forget and have witnessed firsthand how Boone has changed over time. However, their story begins far from the High Country. From Canada, Donna’s family immigrated to Florida. Meanwhile, Tony’s family was from New York but moved to Florida where they bought a bagel store, which is where Tony and Donna met. Both of their parents had restaurants, so they were very familiar with the business and were looking to continue it. “Why bagels? It was what we knew. More or less, I’ve been in the bagel business for everything, for much my whole life,” Tony said. After about 10 years of Tony and Donna meeting and living in Florida, they decided they wanted to move somewhere new. They first went to Cullowhee because Donna’s sister, Ruth Leighton, went to Western Carolina University. However, they didn’t find what they were looking for there. Then Donna’s brother had gone to Clemson University, and he bought property in Banner Elk in the early to mid-70s. “My brother said, ‘Go to Boone! You’ll love it!” Donna said. So, they did. When they were in Boone, they visited Downtown, which Donna described as desolate. There were mainly just offices, banks and a few retail stores. However, they did find an empty building that was available on King Street. “We thought, ‘Oh my, what a cool looking building! I think this is the spot,’” Donna said. “It was what we came up in our mind to try to find, and we liked the location,” Tony added. Therefore, they called the owner about it, and he was looking to lease it. So, they started renting it. A month later, Tony, Donna and Ruth moved to the area. While they renovated the building to prepare for the restaurant’s opening, many people told them they weren’t going to make it as a business. “We heard a lot of people say, ‘Nothing ever makes it in this spot. Everything goes out of business,’” Tony said. “But we were thinking, ‘This is a great spot!’” Donna added.

Donna and Tony Nicastro stand in front of Boone Bagelry, which they opened on June 15, 1988.

Boone Bagelry’s main dining area with the mural on the wall that was done by a local artist, Karl Smith in 1988 and updated about 11 years ago. April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

71


Boone Bagelry back in the day before it was renovated to enclose the front section. The location had previously been a ice cream shop. To the right is one of their first ads in a local paper announcing their grand opening. So, on June 15, 1988, Tony, Donna and Ruth opened Boone Bagelry with all three of them splitting ownership of the business. “We said, ‘We’re going to try it,’” Donna said. “We all knew the business; we all knew how to cook, so we were equal partners, and we did it.” At the start, many people told the new business owners that it was a stupid idea. “People didn’t know what bagels were,” Donna said. “We gave away so much product in the beginning because they really didn’t know what it was. They didn’t know it was bread that you eat.” Donna further explained that they grew up eating bagels and thought everybody knew about them. “Bagel bakers — it’s an art,” Donna said. Originally, Tony, Donna and Ruth were going to have a whole area in the restaurant dedicated to making bagels from scratch. However, the equipment is expensive, and it’s a real process. Therefore, they chose to receive frozen dough from a New York bagel factory, and then they bake it at Boone Bagelry. “That’s why they are so good because they come from New York,” Donna said. “It does make a difference because there they know what they are doing.” Since the beginning, Boone Bagelry has been using the same company to get their dough. A truck comes once a week delivering around 50-60 cases each time. The three of them — Tony, Donna and Ruth — worked really hard and did everything together. Back then, the restaurant was open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. “Believe it or not, we made money 72

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

our first year, which is unheard of in the restaurant business, but we worked it, and our staff was minimum,” Donna said. So, around three years after Boone Bagelry opened, Tony, Donna and Ruth were able to buy the building. Eventually in 2011, Tony and Donna bought out Ruth’s share of the business. Donna described that people began treating Boone Bagelry as a meeting place, and customers enjoyed it because of the fast, friendly service, which has been their motto. She estimated that Boone Bagelry sees around 300-400 people a day in the restaurant. “We used to be packed because they knew we were going to be here,” Donna

The freshly baked bagels that come in many types of flavors.

April / May 2021

said. “They counted on us.” Over time, Boone Bagelry would start to see the same customers visiting every day, and the owners got to know them and know what they wanted. “We saw them as family,” Donna said. “We felt like we were watching out for them. If one of them didn’t come in in the morning, we would hope they were alright. It was more of a community thing. You knew everyone.” Not only did Tony and Donna learn about the people of Boone and what everybody’s go-to order was, they paid attention to details and listened to suggestions. “If you had an idea, and it was good, we used it,” Donna said. “We didn’t care who gave us ideas. We wanted to run the restaurant more efficiently and have the best product and give the best service.” Therefore, Boone Bagelry has seen many changes over the years. For example, the restaurant used to use styrofoam containers, and they eventually switched to biodegradable in 1990, which was way before many other businesses switched. “We wanted to do good for the world,” Donna said. “We thought it was the right thing to do, and we still think that.” Boone Bagelry has seen many menu changes as well. They introduced vegetarian options like tempeh and tofu. “We didn’t know what tempeh and tofu were, but people were saying they wanted it. We tried things because we listened to people,” Donna said. While some things have changed over the years, other things have stayed the same. Boone Bagelry has one of the


longest running specials in the town that they’ve been doing since day one — bagel Sundays. For this special, if customers purchase a dozen bagels, they will get a 1/4 pound of cream cheese for free. Another aspect that has stayed the same is certain menu items such as the Bagelicious, which is the most popular sandwich ordered that Tony made up on day one. The Bagelicious is a bagel sandwich with fried egg, bacon, ham and melted American, Swiss or muenster cheese. Menu items are so much the same today as they were during the early days of the restaurant that people will visit from 25-30 years ago and mention that foods like the chicken salads or tuna salads taste the exact same as how they remember. “That’s because we have a recipe,” Donna said. “It doesn’t matter who makes it. If you follow the recipe, it should be the same. For us, it has always been important to be consistent.” Over the past 33 years, Boone Bagelry has also had a lot of employees and has seen a lot of customers. “We have people who come back, and they were in college in 1989-1990, and they can’t believe we’re still here,” Donna said. Tony added, “We’ve been a part of the community for a long time. We just hope people here have good memories of our place.” Tony shared that there was one woman who came up to him years ago, and she offered him a couple thousand dollars for a picture that was in the restaurant. “She went, ‘Me and my husband got engaged under that picture,’” Tony said. “They were sitting at the table there, and he asked her to marry him.” Boone Bagelry clearly holds many memories for everybody, and when reflecting back on the journey, Donna said she has loved it. “I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Donna said. “All the people have been really great. We have had great customers.” Tony added in his perspective and said, “As Boone grew, Boone Bagelry grew. All I wanted from this store was to make a living and maybe put my kids through college, and that was it, just a small little place. At first, I thought it was going to be just myself, my wife and my sister-in-law, just the three of us working. How busy could we be in Boone? But it got busy, and it got bigger than we thought it would be.” Around three years ago, Tony and

Donna and Tony Nicastro in June of 1988, a week after they had opened Boone Bagelry, where they hoped that the locals would enjoy something new to the area. Donna decided it was time to take a step back from operations and transition into new ownership for Boone Bagelry. Therefore, they went to husband and wife Clark and Elisha Brown, who are the General Managers of Boone Bagelry, and presented an idea. “Their work is their payment,” Donna

said. “My husband thought of a creative way to finance because it’s hard today to open something, and it’s hard to buy anything. So, we said, ‘We’ve done it; we can’t do it forever.’” Tony added, “It’s been a great ride. It really has. I’m glad we’re kind of getting out of it, and new blood is coming

Elisha and Clark Brown are the General Managers of Boone Bagelry and will take over as owners in the future. April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

73


EAT CROW EAT PIE

EAT CAKE

EAT PIE

EAT CAKE EAT PIE EAT CAKE

Delicious Sandwiches

(Served on our homemade bread)

Pies • Cakes Dinner Entrees & Soups To Go British Specialties Upon Request

Catering

Social Distancing Policies In Place

828.963.8228 www.eatcrownc.com

Fabulous British Chef/Owner

Dominic& Meryle Geraghty

Open Tuesday - Saturday

Lunch Served 11am - 3pm 9872 Hwy. 105 S. in Foscoe

11 Rooms and Suites and 3 Cottages

74

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

into it.” Tony and Donna still currently own the business, and Clark and Elisha are managing it. However, Tony and Donna have a 15-year plan with Clark and Elisha. Right now, they are three years into the plan, but after 15 years, Clark and Elisha will be the new owners. “These people are young; they’re in their 30s,” Donna said. “It gives them an opportunity and lets the business go on.” As a response to this idea, Elisha said she and Clark were thrilled. “Tony and Donna felt that it was time for them to step back and have time to enjoy things like traveling, and they knew our dedication to the business,” Elisha said. “For us, it’s not just about the restaurant but the community that we serve, and we are so thankful to be here.” Both parties said it has been a smooth and gradual transition. “At first, Donna and Tony were a bit more involved, but now that we are all comfortable, they have time to relax,” Elisha said. “Clark and I have been at Boone Bagelry for so many years that we already knew the business for the most part. We know how important fast, friendly, quality service is to our customers.” Clark and Elisha have both worked for Tony and Donna for a number of years around the time they went to college at Appalachian State University. Clark began working at Boone Bagelry in 2007 while he was in school, and Elisha started working there in 2009, shortly after she graduated from App State in Dec. 2008. “We went out to eat breakfast together one morning at Boone Bagelry, and we saw the ‘Now Hiring’ sign on the front door,” Elisha said. “We were college kids and needed jobs, so we asked our server about the sign.” Clark was hired right away as a delivery driver, and shortly after, he became a cook. Years later, Clark and Elisha moved to Winston-Salem for new opportunities and experiences. “While we were in Winston-Salem, we learned a lot about the management of restaurants,” Elisha said. Elisha worked as one of the managers for Mellow Mushroom in Downtown Winston-Salem as well as a manager at Silo in Reynolda Village. Clark worked in the kitchen at Noma in Downtown Winston-Salem and then became the chef at Silo.

April / May 2021

“We loved it, but we wanted a new adventure,” Elisha said. “I think we always knew we would come back to Boone. We always loved the mountains and Boone Bagelry, and we just never separated ourselves from them.” When Clark and Elisha returned back to Boone, they received jobs at the restaurant again. In May, they will have both worked as General Managers for four years. Clark’s focus is back of house operations, whereas Elisha’s focus is front of house operations and running the social media accounts for the business. However, they both share the daily operational duties such as scheduling, hiring and ordering. When reflecting on how the times have changed over the years, Clark and Elisha both said that Boone was really different back then. They were in school when App State won the three National Championships and beat Michigan. “It was such a fun time!” Elisha said. “From that time on, the town and university grew very quickly. Fortunately, Boone Bagelry has always been a fun, local spot, but we have continued to grow.” One big difference they noted was how the restaurant sees more tourists now than it did back then. Summers used to be slow in Boone, but now it’s the start of the busy season for many businesses. However, all the interactions Clark and Elisha have with people is their favorite part about working at Boone Bagelry. “We love our customers and appreciate our regulars that we see, sometimes on a daily basis,” Elisha said. “It is such an honor to be part of their lives.” So, what does the future look like for Boone Bagelry? Clark and Elisha said they have so many goals for the restaurant. “We have lots of plans, but our priority is keeping Boone Bagelry what it has always been — an affordable, welcoming and comfortable place with fast and delicious food,” Elisha said. “Boone may be growing, but we don’t want to lose that magic small-town feel.” She further said, “Clark and I are so thankful for all of the support we have received. This past year was one of the most challenging times to run a restaurant, and we are overwhelmed by the love from the community and the hard work, sacrifice and determination of the whole crew at Boone Bagelry. We truly have an amazing group of people working here, and we could not be more excited for the future.”


New Times for Troy’s Diner W

Troy’s 105 Diner will be seeing some find something a little different to do. hile epitomizing the classic diners of the 1950s with retro new times in the near future, as the busi- When Conner reached out saying he was memorabilia on the walls, black ness is currently transitioning ownership. interested in taking over, all the pieces and white checkered flooring and bar-style Troy and Sandra Byrum are selling the res- were in place, and the transferring of seating, Troy’s 105 Diner allows locals and taurant to their younger son, J.B., and his hands started coming together. J.B. reflected on when his parents friend Conner Snyder. There is a five-year visitors alike to step back in time. “People will come in as a couple and plan, and by August 31, 2025, J.B. and bought the restaurant and how he was in the fifth grade. order a milkshake or breakfast, just for the Conner will officially be the new owners. “Back then, it was open until 3 a.m.,” J.B. said that his mother has been trysocial media post,” said Justin “J.B.” Byrum, who is transitioning to be one of the ing to sell the restaurant for a couple of J.B. said. “And I remember many nights new owners of Troy’s 105 Diner. “They years now, as she wants to move on and doing homework and falling asleep in one of the booths and being woken up love the old 50s diner because they by my mom at 3 a.m. saying, ‘OK. are not as prevalent as they were. We got to go home now.’” They especially like when they Sandy added to the memories walk inside, and they see that we and shared that the first time J.B. tried to keep this as close to the became interested in the restauoriginal decor as we could with rant business was when he was the plaques and the CDs on the around 12 years old, and he came wall and the red booths.” and worked during a busy weekConsidered one of the area’s end bussing tables and helping out. only true diners and located on “He made like $250,” Sandy Highway 105 South in Boone, said. “People tipped him; the Troy’s 105 Diner is owned and servers tipped him, and customoperated by Troy and Sandra ers thought he was cute for help“Sandy” Byrum, who bought ing, and he made a lot of money, the building that was originally and there began his love for the known as Mel’s Diner in 2005. The building itself was built in Justin “J.B.” Byrum and Conner Snyder are transitioning to be restaurant industry.” the new owners of Troy’s 105 Diner. J.B. laughed and said that he 1992. April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

75


Troy’s 105 Diner resembles the classic diners of the 1950s with bar-style seating and black and white checkered flooring.

always used to tell people that he would never own the place. “I liked it, and I enjoyed it, but I wanted to see what else there was,” he said. Therefore, after growing up in the restaurant and having worked there for about nine years, J.B. decided to move to Salt Lake City for a year and to the beach for another two years to run a kitchen there. But while he was away, the customers and people in Boone were the reason he considered coming back. “A lot of them are locals and regulars who have been here for years who stop in almost every day,” J.B. said. “We get to know them and get to know their families. It’s a really great family place.” He added, “I realized the opportunity Conner Snyder shows off an old classic, banana split.

I have here, I won’t find at a lot of other places.” While J.B. grew up in the restaurant, Conner has been working there for six years. Conner was also born and raised in Watauga County. “A lot of people who come in here, I know them because I’ve been here my whole life, and they appreciate that too,” Conner said. Conner also described the transferring of ownership as the perfect transition. “Sandy’s been taking care of me,” Conner said. “She wanted out, and I wanted in. She’s really treating me like her own kid.” When it comes to responsibilities, Conner said he more so takes care of the front of house duties, whereas J.B. takes care of the back of house. However, they can do both. “Whatever needs to be done, we fix it and do it,” Conner said. But Conner and J.B. also agree that they couldn’t do it without their staff. “We love our staff,” J.B. said. “We think they’re the friendliest.” Conner added, “People love the restaurant just because of the staff. They tell us that. They’ll say, ‘I only come in because of you guys.’” One of the waitresses of the restaurant, Sarah Grant, has been working at the diner for 24 years, since 1997, and she’s been able to get to know and work with J.B. and Conner over the years.

Puzzles & Games are a Hot Item This Year And We Have Thousands in Stock We have puzzles with local scenes, challenging puzzles with irregular borders, adult oriented puzzles and over a 1000 puzzles for anyone’s taste. In Stock NOW - So you don’t have to wait for a truck delivery that may not come in time.

Visit us to see for yourself . . . Skip the Amazon truck and shop local.

1179 Main Street, SouthMarke, Blowing Rock (Across from Town Tavern) Serves You Right! - Celebrating 25 Years • 828.295.4438 www.servesyourightblowingrock.com 76

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021


Sandra “Sandy” Byrum is co-owner of Troy’s 105 Diner and bought the building that was originally known as Mel’s Diner in 2005. “J.B. is good,” Sarah said. “He knows how to cook and knows everything. He has good business skills, and he takes what I say to heart. Anytime I call him or Conner for anything, they are here.” She further said, “They’re doing great. Conner, he does everything. He does cooking, waiting tables and whatever we need him to do.” When it comes to the transitioning of ownership, Sarah told J.B. and Conner that they are the younger, new generation taking over. “I tried to introduce them to all the people that I know,” Sarah said. “We have our regulars that come in, and we try to learn their names.” The customers who visit Troy’s 105 Diner are the main reason Sarah loves her job. “I love all of the people,” Sarah said. “I love that it’s a small town, and I get to know everybody.” And what’s another reason why customers love visiting the diner? The food. Troy’s 105 Diner is famous for its half-pound, fresh angus beef burgers, milkshakes and dessert temptations. “The milkshakes and the banana splits are a seller,” J.B. said. “Customers love seeing the old classic banana split coming out in the tray with the whipped cream stacked up. It’s really fun to see.” Truly, Troy’s 105 Diner is a fun, friendly environment with the food cooked and people involved, and Sandy said that is what has made her experience with the restaurant a great journey. “I do want to thank everybody,” Sandy said. “My staff has been incredible. The locals have been our friends and regulars since day one. I’m very thankful that we did a business in Boone because we have the support of other businesses, locals and the

E M U

B I S O N

V E N I S O N

E L K

community. Boone has been very good to us and very good to many other businesses, so kudos to the Town of Boone and Watauga County because we would not survive without them.” Groups of friends and family often visit the restaurant.

BISON

B O A R

M O U N T A I N

T R O U T

D U C K

HANGING TENDERLOIN

A A A F OUR DIAMOND R ATING SINCE 20 07 30 05 S H U LL S M ILL R OAD B E T W EEN B O O N E & B LOW IN G R O C K | (8 28) 9 63-74 0 0 | R E S ER VAT I O NS R EQ U IR ED April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

77


Bright Future for Sunrise Grill A

round nine years ago, the Hunter family, consisting of Ian and Lisa and their son, Liam, came upon the opportunity to take over the Sunrise Grill located on Highway 105 in Boone. Before the Hunter family had a restaurant, they would often have breakfast for dinner one night every week, and they would always make a big deal about breakfast on Sundays. “I’m English, so breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day, which made us gravitate toward this,” Ian said. When a previous job came to an end, Ian and his son came to Boone in 2011 looking to get into the restaurant business. “Boone was a great choice because it’s a small town, but the university brings some culture, and so it was ideal for us,” Lisa said. The Hunter family also looked in neighboring areas like Banner Elk and Beech Mountain, but during the search, they stopped by the Sunrise Grill for breakfast. At the time, it wasn’t available. Shortly after, as in a couple of weeks later, the family found out it actually was for sale, and they began working on acquiring the business. “We had always talked about having a restaurant, and then when the situation arose, it just kind of made sense if we were going to try it to try it then,” Liam said. Ian added, “It looked like something we could all make a living at. That was the important part.” The Hunter family spent the first year renovating and fixing up the restaurant. And in the beginning, they shared that business was slow. However, since then, they have been able to build their customer base up. For a family who first enjoyed breakfast together, now they’re making breakfast for thousands of people. “Like all restaurants, we have our own group of regulars that feel very much at home here,” Ian said. Ian and Lisa also have a daughter who lives in Charlotte with her husband and two children, and they often come visit the restaurant. It is very much a familyfriendly setting. Customers return many times and describe the food as the best of its kind in Boone. 78

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

The Hunter family, including (from left to right) Lisa, Liam and Ian, owns Sunrise Grill. Since the Hunter family has owned Sunrise Grill, they have kept some of the original recipes; however, they also introduced new items to the menu and have made the restaurant their own. “We do have a lot of signature things that I don’t think anybody else has,” Ian said. Liam added, “We’ve become very popular for the benedicts. We were surprised you couldn’t get a benedict in Boone when we first got here.” What are benedict breakfasts? The

April / May 2021

owners described it as a poached egg on an English muffin with different options of items to go with it. Lisa said her favorite breakfast meal is egg benedict. “I love the traditional style with the Canadian bacon, but The Flankenstein is something else,” she said. The Flankenstein consists of housemade bread, goat cheese, chiffonade spinach, Vidalia Peach hot sauce, grilled marinated flank steak, two poached eggs and Hollandaise.

Customers go to Sunrise Grill for its diverse selection of menu items.


Tasting Room & Restaurant Visit Our Outdoor Beer Garden in East Boone www.booneshine.beer Liam Hunter displays some of the commonly ordered menu items. Sunrise Grill’s environment feels so much like a family atmosphere that they have old employees who still come back and check in with the restaurant. “It’s a good feeling,” Lisa said. “The majority of our servers and cooks come in all the time. We’ve had a couple of people who have moved away, but they still come back to visit. They have to stop here and say hello and have breakfast, and it’s a really nice feeling.” But it’s not just old employees who stop by. During the weekends especially, Sunrise Grill sees increased traffic; therefore, Ian, Lisa and Liam all get to work because the restaurant gets busier. “It’s a ton of hours like any restaurant if you do it properly,” Ian said. “With the food business, you got to be working to be making money.” However, Lisa said their family loves what they do, and it’s more than just a job. In their years of owning the restaurant, the Hunter family has figured the business out by working together as a team, and they said they all get along pretty well. “We’re very fortunate that we get to do what we love,” Lisa said. “It’s been a great ride, and we’ve done really well, and the community has embraced us.” Ian added, “It’s a great place to be.” Liam agreed and jumped in saying he’s definitely going to be there a while to see what the bright future holds for Sunrise Grill. Exceptional customer service is at the forefront of staffs’ minds.

Of course, the restaurant’s menu has many other delicious, varied and creative choices to choose from as well. To make this happen, all three of the family members share job responsibilities. However, they each have their specialties. For example, Liam is a line cook, whereas Ian does a lot of the prep cooking, which involves making gravy, bacon, sausage, and corned beef hash. Lisa, on the other hand, likes to make more prepared items like quiches. “She’s more artistic with the food, and she does a really nice job of presenting it,” Ian said. There is always at least one of the Hunters at Sunrise Grill working with the rest of their staff, who the owners are quite pleased with. “We have great people in front of house and back of house, and kudos to them because without them, we wouldn’t be anywhere,” Lisa said. “We have some key people in great spots who go above and beyond. They treat the restaurant like we are family, too.”

BOONESHINE BREWING COMPANY 465 INDUSTRIAL PARK DRIVE booNE , NoRTh cARoLINA 28607

Banner Elk Realty “THE ONLY NAME YOU NEED TO KNOW IN MOUNTAIN REAL ESTATE”

When you get serious about wanting superior, knowledgeable service in buying or selling real estate in our beautiful High Country, then contact Banner Elk’s oldest brokerage firm. Put 41 years experience in our local real estate market to work for you!

We are committed to professional service.

John D. Davis, III Owner/Broker

41

YEARS

828.260.1550

PO Box 336, 161 Silver Springs Dr. Banner Elk, NC 28604

www.bannerelkrealty.com

April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

79


Parting Shot...

Last Day at App Ski Mtn March 27, 2021 Appalachian Ski Mtn. last day of being opened for the season on March 27. They still had 10 of 12 slopes open and a snow depth of 25-42 inches.

The Desire to be Outside Leads to Great Season for Local Ski Resorts

S

kiers and snowboarders had no problem finding their way back to the area ski resorts this winter, even during times of economic uncertainty and a global pandemic. “I was surprised at how far people were driving,” said Talia Freeman, the Director of Marketing at Beech Mountain Resort. “We experienced a lot of first time skiers and I think that further validates that the pandemic encouraged people to get outside and get active.” Freeman said they had numerous skiers showing up from all parts of the Carolinas, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland. This year, with capacity limits, folks had to find different times to come to the slopes, boosting mid-week sales. “Our mid-week numbers were up considerably and that was definitely attributed to more flexibility in school and work schedules,” Freeman said. Kim Jochl, the Vice-President of Sugar Mountain Resort, said that they experienced record mid-week turnout this season. “We were limited in our capacity, we sold out many weekends but it was only because we were limited in our capacity,” Jochl said. “People were really anxious to get outside. Kids had to be at home for school, families moved from cities to rural areas, I think a lot of the changes we had to make due to COVID-19 increased the skier numbers across the board at Sugar Mountain.” Sugar Mountain reported 123 skier days, 79.5 inches of natural snowfall and 1,433 snowmaking hours. Those numbers are near their average over the last 20 years. “None of that would have been possible if we didn’t have an incredible winter weather season. Temperatures were ideal, the snowfall was ideal and there were not any big snowstorms that kept people from getting here,” Jochl said. “It just seemed like all of the elements to have a nice, pleasant winter season came through.” Brad Moretz, co-owner of Appalachian Ski Mtn., said that the way the economy was coming into the winter, it acted as a funnel into the ski business. “There were a lot of things that people couldn’t do, so they 80

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

April / May 2021

migrated to things that they could do,” he said. “We didn’t see as many groups or programs like we have had in the past, but I think the general interest of doing things outside made up for that.” With the great weather and the snowmaking capabilities, Moretz said that the snow piled up to the peak of the roof of the maintenance shop. “We had good weather, I think this year seemed colder than normal even though overnight we had the exact same number of snowmaking hours as we did the year before,” Moretz said. Appalachian Ski Mtn. used an online ticket sales process this year that was really popular and allowed for people to spend less time in line and more time on the slopes. “For us, you were not going to stand in line for a chairlift over 10 minutes. Eight or nine minutes was pretty much our max,” said Moretz. “Once we got everything fine-tuned, when people made reservations they were guaranteed they’d have a ticket and a place to park and a pretty fast experience getting through the process. Moretz compared the process to that of a golf course. “They have tee times, we had ski times this year and it worked really well. I think that’s something that we will continue to do to give people the best possible experience,” he said. Hawksnest used similar online reservations for snow tubing to make sure they did not violate any capacity rules while still providing a great experience to its visitors. “It was a good year, we had to change things to get through the season but we did what we needed to do to keep customers and staff safe. None of our staff got sick at all during the year from working,” said owner Lenny Cottom. “All and all, it was a record breaking year because people were coming every day of the week, not just Saturdays. There were plenty of sold out days.” Cottom said that it took some extra planning ahead because they were selling out weekends about a month in advance. “The conditions were great, the weather was good and I think everybody enjoyed themselves,” he said. By Nathan Ham


co m A 2 ing N sp M D LO ring BL AIN CA 20 OW S 21 T IN TRE ION E G RO T CK

Southern Charm in the High Country

HOME

215 Boone Heights Dr., Boone

GARDEN

bbandminteriors@gmail.com

GIFTS

www.thebeeandtheboxwood.com

828.386.6212

Proof 4 for full-page ad to run in CML’s Summer 2020 issue April / May 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

81


Residential • Land • Commercial • Development Sales • Rentals • Consulting • Property Management Nationally Connected • Regionally Recognized • Locally Owned & Operated Our Fully Licensed REALTOR®/Brokers:

Todd Rice

Top Producing Independent Office

Bill Aceto

Tracy Simms

Linda Cramblit

John Heinlein

Karen Cleghorn

Cindy Giarrusso

Lyn Sappington

Hanse Kohler

Tim Gentry

Jeanne Robinson

Jay Coble

John Rice

John Thomas

Brett Baldwin

David Cook

Jim Lewis

Rick Goodwin

Amanda Moffatt

Becky Morgan

Mary Jane Rice

Tripp Garrison

Hope Caroselli

Byron Proffit

Lisa Holmes

Breanna McKay

Beverly Clark

Stephen Holland

Kaitlin Crawford

Victoria Hudson

Hope Harvey

Tom Gidley

Patricia Combs

Pamela Miller

Greg Gibson

Michelle Hammond Sherry Goodman

Paige Carter

Lisa Coffey

Full Administrative Staff: Maria Norris, Melissa Catete, Brooke Cable, Katherine Horner, Courtney Carroll, Lily Suarez, Lisa Andrews

7 Office Locations to serve all your real estate needs! Banner Elk 110 Main St. W Banner Elk, NC 28604 (828) 737-3100

Blowing Rock

Boone

Boone

1129-1 Main St. 895 Blowing Rock Rd. 2237 Hwy 105 Blowing Rock, NC 28605 Boone, NC 28607 Boone, NC 28607 (828) 295-7777 (828) 262-4646 (828) 263-8711

Lenoir 215 Church St. NW Lenoir, NC 28645 (828) 795-1122

www.BlueRidgeRealty.net

Linville

West Jefferson

3616 Mitchell Ave. #3 10 N Jefferson Ave. Linville, NC 28646 West Jefferson, NC 28694 (828) 733-9694 (336) 489-3042

Profile for High Country Press

High Country Magazine April/May 2021 Issue  

Featuring our cover story on the Real Estate Boom of 2020 and a feature story on Charles Hardin, President of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Co...

High Country Magazine April/May 2021 Issue  

Featuring our cover story on the Real Estate Boom of 2020 and a feature story on Charles Hardin, President of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Co...

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded