The Winged Lion
The only way to know where this spot is comes by word-of-mouth.
A modern-day speakeasy, The Winged Lion seemingly popped up overnight. Behind the counter, owner Charles Pringle stands proudly, eagerly awaiting another opportunity to play host to the next customer entering in search of a comfortable space, one with Prohibition-era style cocktails to boot. It’s about taking pride in your conversations, your attire, your social graces and getting to know all those anonymous faces you see around town. Simply put, it’s a place you don’t know anything about, not just yet, but you know you have to be there, part of a new and exciting scene in your own backyard.
Smoky Mountain News: What is The Winged Lion?
Charles Pringle: This is meant to be a place where people can come together, have good conversations and a great cocktail. It’s not necessarily a place to party, rather it’s a place to gather and celebrate. I don’t think we have enough places anymore to meet, talk and converse with each other face-to-face. We do too much “talking” through electronic means or not at all. This is another space to have conversations we so desperately need these days. The loss of that conversation and discourse, I think, is at the root of a lot of our social issues that we face today.
SMN: Your tactic of getting known is through word-of-mouth. Why?
CP: We don’t have any signage or lights outside signaling what this place is. We want you to hear about it, maybe be curious enough to come inside. This place isn’t meant to be a spot for folks who already have a comfortable watering hole of their own. This space is for people who don’t have a spot to feel comfortable. There are times you may want a high-energy crowded place, but there are times you want a quiet place to simply talk with a friend or significant other.
SMN: And you want to connect the dots within the community, too.
CP: It feels good for me to walk in and see this place here, but what I really like is when someone walks in and they feel good in here. My hope is that this is some place for everybody, more than bar, more than a cocktail lounge — a location to make connections, and to use those connections to take outside and into your community.
Putting the final touches on his homemade kegerator, KS Laguna twists on the last of six pour handles attached to the contraption. Alongside his girlfriend Angelica Caporuscio, Laguna took off from Atlanta to start of new chapter of their lives in Western North Carolina.
Situated between Signature Brew Coffee Roasting Company and Mad Batter Food & Film on Main Street, Tonic Delivers is part craft beer market, part restaurant take out service. Offering an array of local and national brands, the company felt it was time Sylva had a location for craft beer enthusiasts, run by craft beer enthusiasts.
Smoky Mountain News: Why Sylva?
KS Laguna: Honestly, this town is the whole reason we’re here. When my band first played a show here, I fell in love with Sylva.
Angelica Caporuscio: Everyone in this town is very easygoing and very supportive of us.
KL: I mean, just yesterday, we over-nighted a shipment to get the kegerator ready to open, but they sent us the wrong ball joints and connectors. So, Innovation Brewing gave us four of the correct ones to make sure we opened on time, and Dieter Kuhn from Heinzelmannchen Brewing came by to help us set up some of the equipment. That’s not the way it works everywhere else, and it’s a special thing here in this town.
SMN: Why a craft beer market?
KL: I saw there was a need for something, for craft beer enthusiasts, a place for them to come, to not feel like they’re just running into a gas station or grocery story and grabbing some beer. We have fresh, rare beers on tap and everything is hand selected. If it’s not the best of the best, we’re not going to carry it.
AC: We want to educate people when they come in, to try a new beer you’ve never had before or even heard of — we want this to be an experience for anyone who walks in the door.
SMN: Your also going to deliver craft beer and restaurant food, too?
AC: We have a Tonic Delivers app for smart phones. You download the app, then click on it to see menus from all the restaurants in Sylva. You can either order food and craft beer or just craft beer. We also have an app that you can use to scan your ID that goes through a database to verify your age. You present that ID again upon delivery, it gets scanned again, then you sign a liability waiver.
SMN: You’re open now, what’s next?
KL: We want to partner with Mad Batter and host events, maybe even put together a stage behind our buildings for live music. Yes, we just opened, but we’re already ready to see what else can we do? How can we make this better? It’s surreal to see how it has all come together.