Southern Grace relocating to old Mount Pleasant prison
MOUNT PLEASANT — The old Cabarrus Correctional Facility just outside of Mount Pleasant is finding new life as the new home of Southern Grace Distilleries, Inc.
Southern Grace Distilleries — the producers of Concord’s first legally made moonshine — is currently based in a space that is less than 3,000 square feet at the old Warren C. Coleman manufacturing plant. They look to be moved into the prison by later summer/early fall, in time for the October races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Southern Grace has seen their first year of production sell more than 4,000 bottles of their premiere product, Sun Dog 130, according to Leanne Powell, Southern Grace president. The first bottles were in stores in North Carolina ABC stores in February 2015.
The company continues to grow and their product is not only sold in North Carolina ABC stores, but Washington, DC and look to start selling in South Carolina and Louisiana soon. They are also looking to get foreign distribution with a company on the Danish-German border looking to ship into Denmark. The growing market is pushing Southern Grace officials to look for a new location.
The new location, at the Cabarrus Correctional Facility, is located at the corner of N.C. 73 and Dutch Road.
“The expansion of Southern Grace Distilleries to Mount Pleasant is going to be very good for our area,” said Mount Pleasant Mayor Del Eudy. “Southern Grace will bring much needed tourism to our part of Cabarrus County and as they grow, more jobs.”
The prison is around 30,000 square feet, and Powell and the others behind Southern Grace look to use close to 20,000 square feet of that, with about 13,300 square feet used for manufacturing and close to 5,000 square feet used for Southern Grace’s new barrel house. There will be a roughly 1,500 square foot visitors center.
“We’re using the largest buildings, short of the mess hall,” Powell said.
The new location comes thanks to a partnership with Southern Grace Distilleries and Mt. Pleasant Properties, LLC.
Dr. Allen Dobson and Tom Earnhardt, who head up Mt. Pleasant Properties, are in the process of purchasing the old prison for around $350,000, Powell said.
“Since the prison shut down some five years ago, the property was quickly becoming an eyesore,” Earnhardt said. “Renovating this property will create much needed jobs and help stimulate economic development in the area”
Mt. Pleasant Properties will lease the space needed to Southern Grace Distilleries to operate the distillery.
“Their vision for transforming the former prison site is not only innovative but will be the first step in many great things coming to eastern Cabarrus County.” Dobson said.
The new location will allow Southern Grace to expand its operations by being able to store whiskey in barrels that range from 10 to 15 gallons and then there will be 53 gallon barrels. The prison will be able to house about 250 of the 53 gallon barrels and more than 200 of the 10 to 15 gallon barrels.
Thanks to the layout of the prison, visitors will be able to tour Southern Grace and overlook the manufacturing process. The prison has plexiglass windows that were used by guards to overlook the prison that can now be used by visitors to overlook the manufacturing plant.
“We are preserving as much of the prison as possible,” Powell said. “We are leaving up as many bars as possible, we are doing everything we can to preserve the history of that along with trying to showcase the history of alcohol and whisky in this part of the county.”
That preservation of history will help bring visitors out to the Mount Pleasant area to explore Southern Grace Distilleries. Officials are expecting visitors because of the distillery, but also from patrons who want to visit prisons, which are popular tour sites.
To Powell’s knowledge, the Southern Grace Distilleries location will be the only distillery in the nation currently operating out of an old prison.
Patrons interested in prisons or distilleries will be drawn to Southern Grace Distilleries, who are already planning tours. They are also working with the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau who has arranged for tour bus operators to take a group to the prison in August. The group is in Cabarrus County for a convention and will visit the distillery during their stay.
Tourists visiting the new location will be able to enjoy the onsite tasting room that will be provided at the prison, plus each patron, of legal age, can purchase a bottle of Southern Grace Distilleries’ product.
The tourism will help boost the local economy, as well as just Southern Grace being able to expand their operations and offer more sales in the growing alcohol market.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council, overall retail sales of distilled spirits in the U.S. Market reached nearly $72 billion in 2015, supporting 1.4 million jobs in the hospitality industry. Whiskey sales alone have grown from $5.4 billion in 2010 to $8.1 billion in 2015, according to the council’s report.
As Southern Grace expands its markets, now entering global distribution, fans will learn more about Cabarrus County and plan visits to Mount Pleasant as a result.
“Southern Grace Distilleries has made a great impact on destination awareness for Cabarrus County as they share their award-winning products across the country,” said Donna Carpenter, Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau president/CEO. “This move will catapult them to a new level. They will go from being a product provider to being a major tourism attraction that will draw visitation from across the globe. Mount Pleasant, North Carolina is already one of the go-to destinations within Cabarrus for antiquing and picking, and I believe the new distillery location will set the stage for even more tourism development in the Mount Pleasant area.”
Visit www.southerngracedistilleries.com or
www.facebook.com/SouthernGraceDistilleries for more information on Southern Grace Distilleries.