The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission signed off on the county’s plans to lease a purpose-built storefront on a vacant 4.5 acre tract across from the Ingles grocery store in Cashiers. The property owner has agreed to build a 4,000-square-foot store and lease it to the Jackson County ABC board for $32,000 a year.
More than two dozen Cashiers residents lodged their disapproval of the site with the state, however. Chief concerns were traffic at the already congested, wreck-prone stretch in front of Ingles. Many also disapproved of building a new store when there were plenty of existing vacant storefronts in Cashiers that could be used instead.
“The biggest thing at Ingles is the traffic. It is absolutely murderous,” said Clyde Welch, one of the Cashiers residents who submitted comments and a retired Conmet factory worker.
Like many who lodged opposition, Welch feared the additional traffic at this spot would lead to more wrecks. Several residents requested a traffic light be installed if the location was approved, but likewise, some said they didn’t particularly want to see another traffic light in Cashiers. Cashiers only has two traffic lights now.
Kathy Blozan, a retired artist in Cashiers, said it was a shame an existing building couldn’t fit the bill.
“It seems so weird to have to build something when we have all these vacant buildings,” Blozan said. “There are so many empty spaces up here.”
But Blozan said she understands the rationale.
The Jackson ABC board researched several possible locations in the area. The site across from Ingles is the cheapest option and the most suitable, since the space would be custom built rather than having to remodel an existing building, according to Jackson ABC officials.
However, Cashiers resident B. K. Jones questioned the practicality of the site, which has significant underlying rock and isn’t on public sewer.
The state process to approve construction of new ABC stores is fairly routine, primarily intended to make sure the site meets various criteria, such as being a minimum distance from existing schools or churches.
Only four residents submitted comments to the state in favor of the site, none of whom are year-round residents of the county.
The property owners, Louis and Joni Darre, bought the vacant tract across from Ingles in 2009. At one point, there were plans for a Dollar General to be constructed on the site, but it never came to fruition. According to the application with the state, the Darres hope to further develop the site after the ABC store is built, presumably with the ABC store serving as an anchor to draw additional commercial outlets.
The ABC store will have a “rustic look in keeping with the general design standards and values of the Cashiers commercial and resort areas,” with Hardy-plank siding and a timber-framed covered entrance, according to the state application.
Currently, Cashiers residents, vacationers and restaurant owners must make the half hour or more trip into Sylva to buy liquor at the ABC store there. But last year, voters approved a ballot measure that legalized the sale of beer and wine countywide and paved the way for county-run ABC stores.
Jackson County is facing up to $200,000 in start-up costs for the Cashiers ABC store, and it could take more than five years to recoup those costs before seeing a profit.