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Full disclosure: I am writing this in the afterglow of a few beers enjoyed at Mount Airy’s newest bier haus, Thirsty Souls. This fine, friendly establishment opened Saturday, and downtown will never be the same. Or as thirsty. Or as boring. Or as uncomfortable. Or as lonely. The founding Kriska family, a cornerstone of the community, and has officially etched themselves into a cornerstone of Market Street.
Saturday, Thirsty Souls marked a milestone for Mount Airy by selling the first craft beer EVER brewed on site: A perfect Hefeweizen they dubbed “White Ghost.” Try it. You’ll like it. Unless you don’t like beer, in which case … they sell WINE!! They also sell a limited menu from the Old North State Winery, which can be delivered for $2. If you want something lighter to nibble on, they serve meat and cheese trays, nuts, chips, hummus and salsa. There are, of course, other beers (I tried a delectable IPA) and an assortment of sodas.
The atmosphere is comfortable in a way that is sort of hard to define. There are two overstuffed leather couches, designed for sinking into. The couches are flanked by upholstered chairs, completing relaxed conversation circles. The front has a huge garage door that opens in fair weather, with a patio-like sitting area. Even the bar area, which has an industrial look, is softened by round hanging light fixtures at alternating heights.
The entire idea of this establishment sprouted from the hoppy (hopsy?) mind of brew master Jan Kriska. He has been brewing his own beers, in his home, for 10 years. A few years ago, he elevated his hobby up a flight of steps, and put a bar, complete with beer taps, in the family basement. I wasn’t there, but In my fertile imagination, I hear Jan exclaiming, “Eureka! … THIS is what downtown needs. THIS is what everyone needs.” Fast forward four years, and the Kriskas delivered. And I got my beer. And I wrote this silly blog post.
But seriously, Thirsty Souls Community Brewing is everything you want after a long day: Comfortable couches, good beer, and good neighbors. Jan with his wife Maria, and their daughters Paulina and Anna, (as well as a host of supportive friends) have birthed exactly what their name implies: A community that whets thirsty souls. I will be back. Who am I kidding … I might just carve my name into that comfy couch….
Today, the hubs and I made it to the opening of the newest kitschy-cool shop in beautiful Mount Airy. Before I share what is “in store” for you, I want to tell you about the owner, Katie Whitener. Just a few months ago, Katie was living in Oklahoma, wondering where to open a specialized boutique. Her grandmother lives in nearby Sparta, so she had visited this region before. She loved vacationing in our Mountains, but never considered moving here until she read that Mount Airy was one of the best towns, East of the Mississippi, to open a business. Soon after, she Donned her cowboy boots and a thinking cap, and inspected the town for herself. In the shake of a buffalo’s tail, she saw and felt her future. Fast forward 5 months, and her dream is realized. Okie Dokes opened its doors today, officially introducing Katie’s slightly western-flare to Western NC.
Katie’s shop is in a CHARMING little brick building on Galloway Street near Riverside Park. She specializes in Western/Boho clothing, unique home decor, jewelry, and gently-used, quality clothing. Her mama, Rhonda, sews and embroiders the dearest aprons, perfect for a special gift. We loaded up on goodies including one of Rhonda’s aprons, a soy candle, handmade soap, the coolest kitchen washcloth ever made, and a stoneware mug that is destined to be our favorite.
The next time you’re downtown, take a little detour and give Katie a warm Mount Airy welcome.
Do you love antiques? Antebellum architecture? Exquisite stained glass? Charming Southern hospitality? Ghost stories? Well, the hubs and I love them ALL, and were DELIGHTED to bathe in their splendor, this afternoon, at LuRosa Atkins Manor. The home, located at 1002 South Franklin Rd. was built in 1852, pre-Civil war. It is currently owned by Ed and April Atkins, who have lovingly restored it, and filled it with antiques and collectibles from a range of time periods, but focusing on the Victorian/Edwardian eras. One of April’s loves is dolls and has over 50 on display. Many are antiques, but some of the most beautiful examples she made herself. Ed is a MASTER stained glass maker. NO … really … A MASTER! (Check out the pics on this blog, and LuRosa Atkins Manor Facebook page.) He has been making these pieces for 62 years, and has installed windows across the country, and internationally. Now in his 80’s, he STILL designs, creates, and installs commissioned pieces himself. The home has many examples of his spectacular work April encourages you to touch the glass, to really “connect” to the pieces.
This is not a museum. It the Atkins’ home. When you tour it, they are letting you get a glimpse into the history of the house, and the couple’s past and present. If you take the tour, and don’t walk away feeling better about humanity, you did something wrong.
Admission is $8 per person. Open W-Sat 11-5. (336) 786-9122
If you open a shop in Mount Airy, it’s just a matter of time before you meet Steve. He doesn’t have business cards, but he does have a tattoo that identifies him as a sign painter. When he stopped in our shop, he quickly, and charmingly, showed me the tattoo, and regaled me with stories of his sign painting wizardry. Indeed … over the past 31 years he has hand-painted thousands of store windows in the greater Mount Airy area. Walk down Main street, or ANY street, and you will see his work. It is unmistakable.
When we first met, and I asked how I could reach him to arrange for our front door to be painted, he just said, “Ask anyone where to find me. Everyone knows Steve the Sign Guy.” And he was right. Steve is a Mount Airy fixture; the paint-speckled embodiment of everything that is good about moving to a small town. He is a handshake and a smile. Eye contact. Personality with a tad of eccentricity. Cash for a job well done. I am honored to have an original “Steve the Sign Guy” hand painted on the front door of my store. Nothing could make me feel more woven into the fabric of this town!
Yesterday, we had company visiting from Greensboro, so we decided to take a quick trip to Galax VA. When the GPS suggested a scenic route, we were happy to check it out. Once we crossed the state line, the street dropped from a standard 2-lane-byway to an unlined … well … um … I guess you could call it a paved trail. Having driven on similar roads throughout the Scottish highlands, we not only expected to see sheep in the road, but were reminded why the Scots settled here. Along the left side, a large section abuts Hawks State Forest. The views are breathtaking and the curves are plentiful, unmarked, and should be taken slowly.
My husband LOVES biscuits. He was raised in Newton, NC, and worked as a Master Biscuit Maker at the 2nd Bojangles ever built. We have sampled biscuits across the South, and he critiques them like a French sommelier musing over a fine Merlot. So imagine how shocked he was to have his first sausage egg and cheese biscuit at Leon’s 0n Main Street. Not only was it the best he’s ever eaten, but the owners are transplants from New York! To top it off, they also make a perfect sweet tea. Looks like Mr. Bojangles might need a new nickname…!
*We are not employed by Mount Airy, or in any way compensated for our endorsements. We just love to share good news about good people doing good things!
As a very recent transplant to Mount Airy, NC, I field one question every day. “Why did you pick this town?” The inquisitors are generally locals who are curious why someone would move from the bustling Raleigh/Durham scene to what is, unquestionably, the kitschiest small town in America. My response: Research. My husband and I traveled a lot, to most small towns in NC, searching for a place to kick off our shoes. The first time we came to Mount Airy we were hooked, through the lip, like an unexpected bystander at a fly-fishing competition. With every successive visit, we were reeled in a bit more, until we anxiously and joyfully joined the other fish that call this home. SPLASH!
So, why a blog? Because I want to share this place! The vintage signs, mountains, the festivals, the locals, the restaurants, the shops, the music, the FLAVOR that elevates Mount Airy beyond the birthplace of Andy Griffith; beyond the Maybery it inspired; beyond the preconceptions of small town America. If you are local, I hope this “Does you proud.” If you are not, just kick your shoes off, and follow along like you are. I’ll grab the sweet tea…!