There & Back: Pittsboro

“Distressed industrial chic” art installations are on display at Pittsboro’s unique beverage and dining destinaion, The Plant.

Take a scenic drive across Jordan Lake on US-64, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Pittsboro, known for its beverage game, music scene and small-town feel.

Drive Time

From Holly Springs: 30 minutes

From Fuquay-Varina: 40 minutes

The Chatham County town of 5,000 boasts a Food Lion, one charming city block of downtown shops and restaurants and a growing art presence.

“It’s a wacky and wonderful place to live,” said Chatham Arts Council member Catherine Hobbs, who has lived in Pittsboro since 2006, when her family built a house on land her husband inherited from his great-grandfather.

N.C. spirits, beer, wine and cider can all be sampled at Fair Game Beverage Tasting room.

The nonprofit’s mission is to invest in the arts and to educate children through the arts. Thanks to the council, murals have been painted on empty walls downtown, and there’s been an increase in creative classes for all ages in and around Pittsboro.

Hobbs’ focus at the Chatham Arts Council is community outreach — something that comes easy to her in Pittsboro.

“I love going into the library and knowing the librarians and the people who are working at the post office and the grocery store,” she said. “Living in a place where people know you and care about you has really been remarkable.”

Whether it’s taking her kids to S&T’s Soda Shoppe for an old-fashioned malted milkshake or grabbing a beer and oysters at Postal Fish Company, these experiences have helped her make a home in the close-knit community.

S&T’s Soda Shoppe boasts 32 flavors of ice cream and old-fashioned floats, Phizzies and sodas.

“We have a lot of transplants and a lot of people who have lived here their whole lives, and that creates a dynamic and interesting place to live,” Hobbs said.

Maria Parker-Lewis moved to Chatham County from Cary 13 years ago seeking a slower pace of life. She and her husband owned the Pittsboro Roadhouse from 2012 until earlier this year, and they plan to open The Sycamore, a high-end steak house later this year.

“Even though (Pittsboro) is so close to Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary and Apex, you feel like you’re somewhere else,” she said. “You will certainly experience local and small — because that’s what we are.”

Parker-Lewis is also president of Main Street Pittsboro, which promotes economic development downtown while preserving its deep-rooted history. The initiative began in 1980 to attract consumers back to local mom-and-pop shops after big-box stores opened in the area. Lately, the nonprofit organization has broadened its focus, backing a new welcome center downtown, where visitors are encouraged to explore all of Pittsboro.

The Plant is Home to the Chatham Beverage District, which includes Chatham Ciderworks, Fair Game Beverage Co., starrlight mead and Copeland Springs Farm & Kitchen.

“There is so much to this small town that you’re not going to see just on our main street,” Parker-Lewis said. “Our district is so small; we don’t want you being deceived into thinking that’s all there is to Pittsboro.”

The Plant is one hidden gem not found downtown. Home of the Chatham Beverage District, a restaurant, art walk and even a hemp boutique — this place is not to be missed for its unique Pittsboro flavor.

The destination got its name from the Piedmont Biofuels plant, which aimed to create affordable, sustainable biodiesel until it’s closure in 2013. The original building still sits on the 17-acre property, thus coining “The Plant.”

Lyle Estill moved to the Pittsboro area 30 years ago to work for Piedmont Biofuels. Now he owns The Plant, a beverage district and art destination serving up mead, spirits, and cider — made daily on the property.

Carolina Hemp Tours, located at The Plant, provides visitors with a guided Introduction to the hemp and CBD industry.

“It used to be forklifts and totes full of acid, and big, boring pumps and 18-wheelers buying our product,” Estill said. “Then the Fair Game Beverage Company popped up across the street, and they rapidly changed our consumer experience at The Plant. We kind of went from everyone wearing steel-toed boots and uniforms; next thing you know, we’re a beverage district.

“We’re a place where people go and taste, and we’re a place where people go and buy bottles and hang out.”

Guests can also grab their beverage of choice and walk the property, strolling around roughly 30 art installations that Estill describes as “distressed industrial chic.” These pieces were made by artists worldwide, from South America to Estill’s own backyard.

Whether you come for the art, a tasting or a picnic in the fields, The Plant offers plenty of options that allow for social distancing — so your visit doesn’t have to wait.

“I heard [Pittsboro] referred to as the ‘epicenter of groovy’ in 2005,” Hobbs said. “My wish is that in 2045, we can still confidently refer to it as the epicenter of groovy. People come here, and whether it’s to live or enjoy for a day, they still find all of these enchanting components in place.”

Make a Day of It!

Chatham Mills Farmers Market for a grab-and-go breakfast. Open on Saturday mornings.
480 Hillsboro St.

Take a kayak or canoe ride down the Haw River via the Robeson Creek Boat Ramp.
Rent through or bring your own.
Hanks Chapel Road

Enjoy american classics and local favorites at S&T’s Soda Shoppe, but be sure to save room for dessert!
85 Hillsboro St.

Browse downtown shops and murals, such as Deep River Mercantile or Liquidambar Gallery & Gifts, or visit idyllic Fearrington Village.
115 Hillsboro St.
80 Hillsboro St.

— or —

Tour the Carolina Tiger Rescue for a glimpse of exotic cats such as tigers, servals and ocelots. Advance registration required.
1940 Hanks Chapel Road,

Have a meal on the patio at Postal Fish Company.
75 W. Salisbury St.

After-dinner libations and a stroll through the art installations at The Plant.
220 Lorax Lane

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