greenville

Moe's Original BBQ | Greenville's Mouthwatering BBQ Addition

Last Friday night my wife and I went on a much needed “dinner and a movie” date. I know, nothing original, but honestly it’s one of favorite kind of dates. This one was particularly memorable, and not just because Crazy Rich Asians was an absolutely fantastic movie.

Moe’s Original BBQ, Greenville’s newest player in the BBQ game, treated us to a sampling of their menu. Don’t let the word sampling fool you, we left with two to-go boxes.

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We started with dessert. And drinks. Or both. This is their signature drink, the Bushwacker, an adult ice cream drink that is deliciously sweet but also packs a punch with it’s strong concoction of liquors.

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Next up were nachos. BBQ nachos, of course. Homemade chips lathered in their unique Alabama style BBQ sauce, cheese sauce, pulled pork. We were getting full about one third of ways into this, and we were only just getting started.

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As a self-proclaimed wing connoisseur, I can say with all of my completely real and not at all made up authority, these wings are amazing. Smoked wings are always a treat, tossed in their homemade buffalo sauce, it was very hard to share these. But it was date night, so I did. I know you’re wondering what those hush-puppy looking ball things are. They are battered pulled boudin balls, with their Alabama style BBQ sauce. These are a Moe’s Original BBQ specialty item, and were a huge hit when they won the people’s choice at Taste of the Update. These are addicting, I will warn you right now. The cornbread was like cake, collard greens made me feel like I could eat vegetables a lot easier if they were all like this. Finally, the cucumber watermelon salad was incredible refreshing and will be something I’m going to attempt to make at home before summer’s end.

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We finally got to the main course, consisting of their smoked chicken, turkey, ribs, and pulled pork. The pork melted in my mouth, the rib meat fell off the bone without any effort whatsoever. The turkey and chicken were cooked to perfection, and I could drink the BBQ sauce they I dipped them in.

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By the time we were to desert time, we were already determining we wouldn’t be getting popcorn at the movie, and almost certainly might need a gurney to get us through the door to our car we were so full. The banana pudding, and I say this un-ironically, was exactly how I remembered it being when I grew up. As a chocoholic, I would take a swimming pool full of the chocolate pudding.

In case you need any more convincing, Moe’s Original BBQ is a must visit. They are priced fairly, have fantastic friendly service, and perfectly located right next to Liability Brewing on Stone Avenue in the new Westone development . There is plenty of outdoor seating, perfect for families and their four legged friends to sit on the patio this fall.

5/5 food and experience. Check them out!

You can visit them at:

109 West Stone Avenue, Suite B
Greenville, SC 29609

For more info, called them at:

864-520-1740 

Andrew & Stephen Oliver | Brother Oliver | The Greenville Music Scene

This week we’re diving back into Greenville’s music scene and putting local folk-rockers, Brother Oliver, in the spotlight. 

Brothers Andrew and Stephen Oliver are from Greenville, not THAT Greenville, but Greenville, Michigan. A tiny little town surrounded by other small-towns and country roads with one Applebees and a Pizza Hut. “Some people will never understand how huge of a deal it was when we finally got a Walmart,” they joked.

Every kid dreams about being a rockstar a little bit, Andrew and Stephen were no different. Their introduction to music started out with private lessons, Andrew on trumpet and Stephen on the saxophone, and they also participated in school band and played in church. 

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“We weren’t allowed to listen to a lot of music growing up,” Andrew said. “Our parents were pretty strict growing up. At the time I was really into skating, we would watch a lot of skate videos and try to make our own. While we were watching the skate videos I fell in love with the music that went with the videos, music I had never been allowed to listen to. My senior year of High School I started losing interest in skating. My skill level had reached the point where I would have to be risking my health in order to get better, so I faded out of it.”

Andrew Oliver (left), Stephen Oliver (right)

Andrew Oliver (left), Stephen Oliver (right)

Stephen jumped in, “At the time Andrew was playing around with hip hop.  Cover videos were really popular on youtube and he wanted to make somee. But I decided to get a ukulele,” he laughed, “I figured the girls would be all about it. Andrew wasn’t about it yet, but eventually he got a guitar and we taught ourselves. We were bad at our instruments, but we had fun with it and started writing songs since we had a basic knowledge of music theory from our lessons and band practice. The next logical step for us was to start a band.”

Andrew continued, “Initially I didn’t have any skills other than trumpet and what I had learned electronically. Stephen wanted to play folk stuff because of his ukulele, so I finally picked up a guitar. We were young enough to not have a lot of responsibilities or bills, so we stayed up late playing and writing music.”

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“Our parents weren’t keen on it at the time. Our dad was a pastor, so there was a little tension. Looking back, we realized that it made us work really hard to prove ourselves. It wasn’t easy to get them on board, but they’re cool with what we do now.”

Andrew moved to Greenville in 2013 as soon as he graduated high school to attend Bob Jones. “I know, I know,” Andrew laughed, “an unlikely spot for a rock musician.” Stephen came down for school at BJU as well but dropped out and started working and lived with Andrew in their small apartment. This is when they recorded their first album, Stubborn Fool. Stephen ended up moving back to Michigan after about 6 months. During this time Andrew worked hard at improving, writing more songs, and even playing solo gigs. “I wrote a record by myself while Stephen was gone. He would come down a couple weeks at a time to record our second album that we called Kudzu, which came out in 2015.” 

“When I finished school,” Andrew said,  “I felt like I had more connections in this Greenville than I did back home. Like I said, we were raised pretty strict and didn’t get out a whole lot, so I stayed here. Stephen finished up an his degree in Michigan and came back down here. We always knew that we wanted to do the music thing, we just had to wait for the time to be right.”

Stephen moved to Greenville in the Summer of 2016. It wasn’t long before they recorded their third and most recent self-titled record, Brother Oliver.

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Lyrically Andrew tends to write about what he called “psycho-spiritual material.” 

“I always want some kind of religious undertone in my lyrics without being overtly explicit,” Andrew said. “I don’t want to be so ambiguous for the sake of ambiguity, I think there is a fine line between the two. I write about how I want people to fully know what they believe, because they don’t take the time to stop and think about it. I feel like everyone needs to tear their worldview down at some point and build it back up again. Think about what you’re doing, what you believe, maybe it’s not as a cookie cutter as you think. I want people to walk away from our music thinking about their own selves, and maybe in a new way.”

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The album art for their self-titled album is a 1500's piece called the Garden of Earthly Delight, by Hieronymus BoschPiece. “The album art is a small portion of a must larger piece,” Andrew said. “It’s a trifold painting. My wife has a copy of it, which is how I discovered it. This piece is a depiction of life. On the left is God and the Garden of Eden, on the right is Hell and all kinds of dark features and figures.”

When you listen to their music you’ll notice that there is a lot of minor keys mixed in with brighter notes. “We like our music to be dark with a little nugget of hope,” Andrew said. 

Before moving to Greenville, Brother Oliver had played a couple shows for their friends and family in Michigan. They started out in a tiny room in a small bar in front of about 20 people. Their first show in Greenville was at an open mic at Smilies during Stephen’s first short stint in Greenville. Their live performance quickly improved as they shook off the nerves. Now, Brother Oliver has played in front of several hundred people at Fall For Greenville and will be spending most of 2018 touring, playing around 250 shows. 

“We are 100% entrepreneurs,” Andrew said. “I’m very business oriented. We do everything in house, all of our marketing and recording. It’s not just about saving money either, it’s about quality control. We want to be taken serious as a business entity, entertainers, and as artists. The ability to control cost and quality helps us make a living at our shows.”

“We are going full time this year, Stephen said. “We both put in notices at our jobs. We’ve been busting it for 2 years, testing what works in what market and where it doesn’t. This last year has been about building our brand and market research. It’s a little scary, but a lot of fun.”

“We’ve had a great experience growing a band in Greenville,” Andrew said. “We are so grateful for people like Wes over at Radio Room who gave us a chance. I know people complain about the music scene in Greenville sometimes, but we think that there’s plenty of opportunity.” Stephen added, “You get what you give. You can’t just make a band, throw a show, and expect it to be sold out. You have to build the brand.”

Brother Oliver is in the process of recording another record right now. After playing 80 shows in 2017, they’ll be touring regionally full time in 2018, playing anywhere between 220 and 260 shows. Be sure to support them and local music. You can check out their albums streaming on Apple Music and Spotify! 
 

Hunter Ballew | Cornerstone Construction & RoofGEN | Greenville Entrepreneurs

You’ve heard me say this time and time again, but I’ll remind you: Greenville has some incredible entrepreneurs and individuals. Yet, there are few that I’ve met who have as much drive, passion, or as strong hearted as Hunter Ballew does.

Hunter is a rarity as a Greenville native. He was born and raised in Travelers Rest, and he attended TR High School. Hunter never really had ambitions for school, but he did have an entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. At only six years old he was constantly trying to hustle. 

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With a laugh he told me, “I would literally try to find the dumbest ways to make money. I would catch lizards and try to sell them on a quiet street where no one would drive by except the mail lady. Or, I would go in the woods to find old glass insulators to take it to the jockey lot to sell. I’m not sure if people actually wanted the stuff I was selling or if they just thought I was cute.”

“I feel like I was below average as far as learning goes,” Hunter told me, “but my work ethic was above average. All I wanted to do was join the Marine Corps. I worked various jobs throughout high school and immediately joined the Marines after graduating.” 

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It wasn’t long after training finished that Hunter was back in Greenville. He joined the Fire Department and ran his side business of flipping.

“My go-to business was buying and then selling stuff,” he said. “I would buy appliances, cars, boats, trailers, houses. You name it, anything I could buy below value and make a profit on, I would.” 

Hunter began a moving company of his own in 2012, but within two years he realized he could make a good deal more by continuing his flipping business. It was around this time when he started using Ebay and Amazon and his interest in e-commerce and online marketing came to be. 

His marketing side grew quickly. He started learning SEO and how to teach companies how to brand themselves. 

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“Blue collar guys generally frown upon the idea of digital marketing,” Hunter said. “I found that it’s often because they’ve been scammed in one way or another.” Using that as his inspiration and motivation, Hunter founded RoofGEN, a brand consulting company for roofing and other blue color companies. His goal was to show these business owners that the modern ways of marketing were valuable and could provide insight into their companies. 

In order to prove his thesis, Hunter needed a case study. Thus began Cornerstone Construction. “I figured if I can do it myself and show them I built this company using my knowledge of digital marketing I could tell them, ‘imagine what I can do for you.’ Not only that, I would be able to learn the ins and outs of the construction industry better.” 

Hunter initially consulted with other contractors in the Upstate to discuss partnering. However, he ended up with an experienced project manager and no longer needed a partner. Today, they are the fastest growing roofing company in Greenville and serve both residential and commercial clients all over the upstate.  

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“Even though Cornerstone was just supposed to be a case study, I fell in love with it during the process,” Hunter said with a smile. “It has given me the ability to serve the community so much better than I ever imagined. It’s a blessing to my heart to be able to serve and give back to the community. It blesses my heart to be able to give away tickets and see kids get to go to Drive, Clemson, and Swamp Rabbit games. If you’re not willing to be generous from the start when you have nothing you’re not going to be generous at the end when you have a lot.”

He continued, “With RoofGEN, I can work form my couch. But I truly love getting out and interacting with Greenville via Cornerstone. I love building relationships. One day my hope and dream is to train, coach, love on, and build up others, specifically youth. I have such a big heart for kids. I want company/companies to provide for not only my family but hundreds of families. My end goal is to have the resources to be able to bless others and build others up.”

“As a kid my family wasn’t poor but we certainly weren't rich. I can remember we had an old astro van that overheated and, wouldn't you know, didn't have any heat. So, my dad was pretty innovative. In the morning before school we'd have to fill up 2 liter bottles with water incase the van overheated on the way to school. Well, why not fill them up with hot water, right? We'd hang on to those things and stay warm all the way to school during the winter.”

“When you're young most everyone thinks their life is rough. We all have our own circumstances when the little hill seems to be a mountain.  As I grew I realized that life isn't so bad. From a young age I knew that my life was going to be different.  One day, specifically, the school bus dropped me off at the end of the road and I walked up the the hill towards our house.  At 12 years old in a curve on North Benson Road I said my life IS going to be different. Whatever it takes. I don't want the worries of money. I want to be able to bless others.”

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“As I've gone on from school into the Marine Corps, Fire Department and multiple businesses life has taught me so many things. I've learned to keep your foot on the pedal and never let up on personal development. Always be the best you can be. I've learned to giveback and watch others be blessed. Most of all, I've learned to show love and compassion for all people whether it's family, friends, co-workers, or some guy you meet at QT.”

He concluded, “We truly appreciate the support of the Upstate as we continue to grow Cornerstone. You'll hear this on my Facebook Live videos often. Our promise has been, and always will be, as we continue to grow, we'll continue to give bigger!”

Hunter’s heart and passion for helping others really struck a cord with me. If you follow him and his business’s on social media, you’ll see that everything he and his company does is entirely genuine. It was humbling to sit across the table and hear the passion that flows out of him.
I highly recommend you give Hunter, Cornerstone Construction, and RoofGEN a follow.

Marco Carrizales | Greenville FC | Greenville Entrepreneurs 

In case you missed it, Greenville is getting a professional soccer team. The exciting announcement came on November 27th and spread on social media like wild fire. Soccer fanatics, such as myself, are thrilled to have a hometown team to support. There’s a lot of details still to come before the season starts this upcoming Summer. In the meantime, I had the great privilege of sitting down with Greenville FC’s founder and creator, Marco Carrizales. 

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Marco grew up in Dallas, TX, where he spent most of his life before moving to Greenville. He grew up kicking a soccer ball before he was even walking. His older brother played, and his dad was a collegiate and professional soccer player. Marco’s athleticism allowed for him to be talented at just about every sport, but in the 4th grade his mom was tired of driving him from all of his sport practices and told him to pick a sport. He went all in on soccer. 

From an early age, people took notice that he was growing into a very talented player. Dallas is a soccer hub, so several clubs reached out to him with hopes he would play for them. He joined one of the most prestigious youth soccer clubs in the entire world. It didn’t take long before he was noticed by the professional soccer team in the city, FC Dallas. They invited him to try out for their development academy league team when he was in the 8th grade. His scrawny stature made the 16 year olds around him seem like grown men. Despite being younger and smaller, he was invited back. He was constantly training and traveling around the world and was even invited to youth national team camps. 

His schedule caused him to miss an incredible amount of classes, and the school he attended almost kicked him out. This put Marco in a predicament with life-altering decisions to make. He was on track to becoming a professional soccer player, and to stay on that track he had to make some sacrifices. 

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His commute to the soccer academy was 45 minutes one way. In order to keep up with his academics, he made the choice of joining a small academy school that catered to athletes with hectic schedules. At 15 years old, he left home to live in an apartment near the academy with another teammate. 

“With soccer, if you want to be the best, you have to commit and make sacrifices,” Marco said. “I haven’t lived at home since I was 15. I had to leave all my friends and family only to see them on weekends. My team was now my family, and I was committed to the game I ultimately thought was going to set me up for the best success I could get. But, in the back of my mind, I was always wondering what I was missing. I was never sure if it was going to work out. ‘Is this all worth it?’ I asked myself. ‘Is it worth not having a normal high school experience for this dream?’” 

Marco persevered. He finished the remainder of high school at the academy. When he graduated, he continued playing and training every day for the FC Dallas reserve team. He was scouted by colleges all across the country. Instead, he chose to play for SMU where he spent his first two years of college before transferring to Furman University.

He played injury free for most of his career until his junior year of high school when he tore his meniscus and needed surgery. Generally, you’re able to recover from this injury with proper rest and therapy. Unfortunately, he experienced complications that never really went away. The injury constantly nagged him, and Marco realized he had to change the way he played.

“It was a tough time of life to adjust how I played the game,” Marco said. “It happened while I was being recruited by colleges. My knee was just never the same. I don’t remember a training session where I felt good or felt fine when we were finished. My first season at Furman was so rough I could hardly walk after games. I ended up re-tearing my meniscus and had to have a second operation, and I still had lots of complications. My knee would swell up, and I was only a year from being able to attend a professional club and all this stuff is happening. Collegiate soccer can be brutal… we are constantly training and games are often scheduled very close together. My body was rejecting everything. But during this time it still hadn’t crossed my mind that I might not play professionally, even though it had been four years since I had not been in pain.” 

Nonetheless, in January 2017 Marco was drafted by FC Dallas. He was brought in and played in their preseason matches. Unfortunately for Marco, the season prior had been FC Dallas’ most successful year in their history. Their roster was working, so they had a limited number of spots available. 

He played his heart out and fought for a contract. Unfortunately, he didn’t receive one and they released him from the team.

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“I could have pursued other clubs or gone into a lower division,“ Marco said. “But with the condition of my knee I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. I could have pursued that or try playing in another league in another country…maybe make a small salary and see where it took me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make another sacrifice like that. I felt like a failure.”

For the first time he realized that, perhaps, he wasn’t going to be playing professional soccer. 

“I realized the time had come for me step away from the game. My knee injury helped me reach that conclusion and get past the ‘I’m a total failure’ mentality. Even though it was tough and lonely sometimes, I realized that I had the privilege of traveling the world and playing for one of the best youth clubs in the world. I had incredible experiences and met amazing people. Soccer helped me with my school expenses. Soccer gave me so much…it raised me as a person.”

His decision became easier when he realized how much he gained from the sport. He earned tools to utilize in his now post-soccer life. He’d learned how to take care of his body by eating healthy, he’d learned how to work with people who may not view life the same was as he did, he learned how to do small things like be on time. All of that, he contributed to his life as a soccer player. 

“I decided I wanted to give back to the sport that gave me so much,” Marco mentioned. “I never considered myself as anything other than a soccer player. My brother always tells people that I am the most ‘productive bored person’ ever. I was never into video games, and in my free time I liked learning and teaching myself different skills. I enjoyed business plans and liked coming up with app ideas even though I never followed through with them.” 

During his time at Furman, he fell in love with the city of Greenville. He saw the opportunities for young adults and decided to call it home after he graduated Furman in December 2016. Around this time, he was hired by COPA Indoor Soccer as their general manager. For the first time, he began experiencing Greenville as a young professional and not as a soccer player. 

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In April of 2017, he attended an event with a speaker named Fabio. Fabio is the director of global digital brand of soccer for Nike. He deals with Nike video productions involving the likes of Ronaldo and Messi. Similar to Marco, He played soccer in college and tried to play professional, but it didn’t work out. When Marco saw that he was coming to town, they ended up having breakfast together.

Marco learned the story of Dennis Crowley, the founder of Foursquare. Dennis, who lives in Kingston, New York, is a soccer fanatic. He wasn’t a player, but he simply loved the sport. There is a huge urban soccer culture in Kingston and the surrounding areas. Since it was about a 2 hour drive for residents to see a high level soccer team, Dennis wanted to bring soccer to his community.

From scratch, Dennis built a soccer club in his community. Eventually, the club joined the National Premiere Soccer League (NPSL) and, using his experiences, Dennis wrote two manifestos on how to build a soccer club from scratch. These manifestos were written to inspire people to build soccer clubs in their community. 

Marco went home after his breakfast with Fabio and read those manifestos. The idea of Greenville FC was born.

“I was immediately attracted to Crowley’s concept,” Marco said. “I’m the kind of guy who gets stuck on ideas. From reading those manifestos I got inspired. I had just stopped playing soccer and my mindset was changing. I was in a position where I could make this happen. So, I reached out to Dennis. I told him that I’m in a city which doesn’t have a club and I want to change that. Much to my surprise, he messaged me right back and we started a dialogue.” 

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As their conversation continued, Marco reached out to the founders of Asheville’s club, which was also a product of Dennis’ manifestos. They immediately jumped at the idea of helping Marco get a club launched in Greenville. Marco took the time to go up to games to experience them as a fan and see how they operated. His experience further inspired him, and he has sought out various connections since April. 

“The great thing about the NPSL is that everyone is for each other,” Marco said. “One person’s success makes others successful. We immediately got excited while discussing our potential rivalry and derby match.”  

Eventually, Marco began communication with the leaders of the NPSL. 

“At this point I realized there was no going back. This was the first time I had ever followed through with an idea. The league quickly realized that this 22 year old kid knows what he is doing. It didn’t feel real until that point. I plugged away and crafted what I could. I couldn’t be public with it… I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want it to get out and people get their hopes up. Finally, the NPSL gave us formal approval to join the league, and that’s when I finally made the announcement.” 

He continued, “Before, I was focused on being the best player and best leader for my team. Now I’m focused on providing a platform for someone else to be the best player and the best leader. This sport has been my life, and now I want to give back to it. Greenville FC can’t be successful without the help of of the community. I’ve been in Greenville for awhile and I’ve seen its soccer community. Although I know that it’s in infant stages, I’m confident that this will grow into something incredible. This isn’t just my team. This isn’t just an NPSL club. It’s Greenville’s team. It belongs to this city and its people.” 

Greenville FC begins its first season in the Summer of 2018. Be sure to follow GVLFC on social media to stay up to date on the release of venue, kit release, special events, and more! 

Steve Lorch | Table Rock Tea Company | Greenville Entrepreneurs

One of my favorite aspects of living in Greenville is how close we are to incredible views. About an hour drive north from downtown Greenville off of Highway 11 is Table Rock State Park. If you haven’t been there, you should go. While you’re there go across the road, literally under the shadow of Table Rock, and visit the Table Rock Tea Company

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Steve Lorch is a self-described eclectic serial entrepreneur, originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Jennifer, relocated to Mauldin, South Carolina. Steve is also a medical professional by trade as a surgical nurse. 

However, for the past several years, he has been working in medicine part time.

“When I was a surgical nurse in Pennsylvania, I was always on call, always working,” Steve explained. “When we moved down here, I was only 26 and on the verge of have an ulcer. A big part of my life is in my faith, and I knew this is not the way God wanted me to lead me life. You can spend every dime you make but you can’t get your life back.”

Time is worth more than money, and Steve cutting back on his time at “real work” has allowed him to do a lot of things. He’s published three books (working on 2 more), finished a movie script, recorded seven albums, and designed a board game which will be launching on kickstarter. 

When Steve says he’s a serial, eclectic entrepreneur, he’s not exaggerating. “I always joked that I ran with scissors and didn’t play well with other children,” Steve said. “I never liked rules. I liked to make the rules.”

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Before the Table Rock Tea Company was even a thought in their minds, Steve and Jennifer founded a company called Hydromissions International which did water-well projects all over the world. Incredibly, Steve and Jennifer were processing a thousand projects a year out of their home with no staff. A lot of their work had them traveling across the world. It was during a project in Kenya where they discovered tea plants.

They bought their first tea plant online and put in the ground at their home in Mauldin and let it grow. 

“We didn’t think anything of it after we planted it,” Steve said. “It wasn’t until we bought our property at Table Rock when we thought about it again. You see, we have a rule that every plant on our property has to have purpose. It can’t just be ornamental. We’ve been around the world and seen places that use their land so well. We wanted to do the same, and be entirely practical with our gardening.”

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He continued, “We were brainstorming of a way we could line our driveway with hedges. We were trying to figure out what kind of hedge could be both be decorative and practical. Then we looked outside and saw our tea plant. It looks like a hedge, so why don’t we do tea? Turns out, we needed 400 of them to line our driveway. So we decided to start a tea company! That’s honestly how we started,” Steve laughed, “we wanted an ornamental hedge row.”

“Before discovering tea in Kenya, we didn’t really even drink tea a whole lot,” Steve said. “That was the first time we were handed single source tea. It was only 90 minutes old.” 

Steve went on to explain to me that, while freshness was a big deal, single source tea is also vital to making a high quality tea. I learned that tea, much like wine, is effected by its region. The tea growing in one place could taste completely different than somewhere else because they had a different earth. I learned a lot about tea during my brief time with Steve. And I learned even more once I took a tour at his farm. 

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“Agriculture tourism is a the bread and butter of our business,” Steve said. “We regularly offer free tours of the fields and facilities. We have volunteers come during planting season. We want Table Rock to be known as Tea Country.” 

He continued, “We’ve had a lot of people come through here that decide they want to grow tea… but then they don’t have the means to process the leaves. We’ve worked it out so they buy plants from us, they grow them, and then we buy the leaves from them and processes them. A tea consortium.”

During their hydro mission days, Jennifer wanted to learn how to make soap and pass that along to the women they worked with in Africa. So Jennifer  went to the library and checked out a book that taught her how to make soap. Of course, Steve being Steve, “mechanized” his wife’s soap. “We were in a one stall garage in Mauldin, making 700 bars of soap a day for 23 states, sending it to places like Whole Foods.”

“I really like micro-factories, I like things that involve processes, taking them from base ingredients and turning them into a business,” Steve said with a grin, “I’d love to do a tv series called GarageBiz. I’ve got some friends in television I’m trying to pitch that to.”

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Steve continued, “There’s a difference between a business person and an entrepreneur. One requires the ability to take a risk, one doesn’t. A lot of people don’t have the stomach for risk. We found that people in developing countries might not have the margins for risk, because sometimes taking risk meant the literal death of your family. That clamps down on entrepreneurialism. So we started Opportunity.org, the charitable micro-enterprise branch of Table Rock Tea Company.”

10% of Steve’s gross revenue with Table Rock Tea Company goes to opportunity.org. Acting as a source for micro-enterprise loans and providing scholarships for farmers and entrepreneurs in developing companies. “That’s a long time down the line,” Steve said, “but we knew we had to set it up from the beginning. Once we are are up and running, we would buy their tea from them. This is the long stretching vision for Table Rock Tea Company.” 

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“The first four years have been proof of concept,” Steve said. “When growing tea, you have to check several boxes off first. One, is the plant going to grow at all. Two, is it going to reproduce. Three, is the tea going to taste any good, and you won’t know that for 3 or 4 years. Last year we made our first real tea and were finally able to check all of those boxes yes. This is when we built a commercial green house and planted our first 3000 plants. We’ll be planting 1 to 2 acres a year, with roughly 4300 plants per acre.” 

He continued, “I don’t get swayed by money, it’s just not a motivator. We’ve been a company for 4 years now, and it’ll be a decade before bleeding stops. That’s just how the tea industry works, it’ll take a long time. With Table Rock Tea Company, this is the first time I’ve wanted it to be a financially successful business. I want it to be able to provide jobs for people. In order to do that it has to be commercially viable for many years down the road.”

“I start things because I’m passionate about what it is, Steve said. “I’m one of those crazy people that believes I can change the world. In this case, Table Rock Tea Company is trying to change a region. If we can successfully turn Table Rock into ‘Tea Country’ that will provide a ton of jobs.”

Steve hopes to open a cafe right off of Highway 11. With 400,000 people going to the state park a year, it’s certain to be a hit. 

 

Shawn & Lindsay Johnson | Birds Fly South Ale Project | Greenville Craft Beer Series

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My exploration into the Greenville craft beer scene continues this week with the story of the Johnson Family: owners and masterminds behind the incredibly unique Birds Fly South Ale Project. You’ll find this funky Birdhouse at Hampton Station, located in the historic downtown Water Tower district.

Shawn and Lindsay’s story began in Clearwater, Florida, where they met and married. Shawn’s career in the Coast Guard brought him to Clearwater. This line of work required their family to be nomads.

Not long after having their first child, the Coast Guard presented Shawn and Lindsay with two choices: Hawaii or Kodiak, Alaska. “We are risk takers,” Shawn said, “so we chose Alaska.”

“We don’t regret it for a second,” Lindsay told me. “The massive adjustment of moving from Florida to Alaska shaped us into who we are today. When it gets dark at 4pm, when it’s constantly snowing, or it’s so windy you feel like your house is about to fall apart, you tend to spend a lot of time indoors. We had to start creating hobbies for ourselves.”

“This is when we really began to invest in the process of brewing our own beer,” Shawn explained. “We learned to lean into our marriage, to the growing partnership, and this helped build our foundation as a family and as a business.  Relocating our family in such a drastic way is directly parallel to the experimental nature of what Birds Fly South Ale Project is today.”

Lindsay added, “Moving to Alaska was a challenge that helped us grow as brewers. There are limited resources in Kodiak, so we really had to experiment with our recipes. Way back then we laid the foundation for our craft beer philosophy.”

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Five years later the family of now four was transferred back down south to Florida. The couple invested further in the craft beer world, building their home-brew set up, attending countless festivals, and researching, reading, and talking about their beloved craft.  “We were able to try so many great beers at the festivals,” Lindsay said. “It really developed our creativity further.”

During this time they met Bob Sylvester, renowned brewmaster and founder of Saint Somewhere Brewing outside Tampa, FL.  Bob took Shawn under his wing and played an instrumental role in helping develop his brewing skills. Shawn interned for several years as a brewer under Bob, learning about farmhouse ales and brewing methods.

“Most of what I know came from Bob,” Shawn said. “He is an inspiration and a teacher, a true mentor. I call him my beer dad.”

The family of five made one last stop in their ale project evolution when they transferred to Washington, D.C. where Shawn was supposed to be stationed for 4 years.  They quickly became involved with the brewing community and helped open Fair Winds Brewing Company. They gained valuable hands-on experience in launching a startup, a skillset much different than brewing beer. “I’m so grateful for that chapter in our lives,” Lindsay said. “We learned so much that we were able to apply with the creation of Birds Fly South.”

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At the end of just one year came another plot-twist in their story when Shawn was unexpectedly transferred to Greenville, South Carolina. “We had never been here before,” Lindsay said. They quickly fell in love with the city and connected with the craft beer community. “We had been implanted into a Coast Guard community in the past,”  Shawn explained, “but that wasn’t the case when we moved here. So we started at local bottle shops, found our people, and went from there.” Greenville soon became their home.

More than a decade after beginning their craft beer journey, and many months into a search for their future ale project home, the Johnsons landed at Hampton Station. “Shawn was able to connect with the guys at Thomas Creek, who gave him space to brew our own recipes and store our barrels,” Lindsay explains. This allowed them to get their beer into the public, and helped them establish a brand in the growing craft market.

“We call our kids birds,” the pair explains. “When the time came to head south we were ready. We landed in Greenville and it felt like a homecoming.” Lindsay, Shawn, and their 16, 12, and 8 year old sons opened the aptly named Birds Fly South Ale Project doors to the public on September 1, 2016.

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“Everything about this place is a partnership,” they add. “It’s not one person brewing beer and another running operations. It’s about a team, shaping and being shaped by a community, creating quality relationships and quality craft ales.”

“The brewery atmosphere was influenced by our time in Alaska,” Lindsay said. “Up there people were able to live more openly, without feeling like they had to conform to a certain expectation.  We want people to feel that no matter where you’re from, what you look like, or what you do (or do not) believe in, you’re welcome here.”

From what I can see, they absolutely succeeded in doing that. The very first time that I came to Birds Fly South I remember telling my wife that it felt like I was attending a family reunion. People brought their dogs, families playing corn hole, friends throwing around a frisbee, and there was genuine socializing around the outdoor beer garden.

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“We want to stay true to how we’ve always lived our lives,” Shawn added.  “We’ve gone to new communities and we’re well versed in what it feels to to be the new people.  We want to be a gathering spot for people who hadn’t found their place yet, or if they’re new to town, don’t know where to start.”

I highly recommend that you make plans to visit Birds Fly South Ale Project at Hampton Station. Before you leave, be sure to shake Shawn and Lindsay’s hand. You won’t find a more genuine and passionate pair.