Some new downtown Gastonia business owners say owning a business isn’t for the faint of heart.
But they still believe seeing their hard work pay off is worth it.
Jacob Hibberts opened his long-awaited high-end whiskey and cigar lounge, WhiskGars, in February.
The lounge sits along Main Avenue in Gastonia adjacent to the Rotary Pavilion.
“Having a business definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but we’ve been enjoying building relationships with the businesses downtown and growing our memberships,” Hibberts said.
The Hibberts’ lounge has 1940s and 50s-themed leather sofas and chairs, a 3,000-square-foot cocktail area and a full bar with a 36-foot granite-top bar.
Guests are served charcuterie boards, a full dessert menu and shrimp cocktails.
Hibberts has seen his business attract more than 2,000 members into the lounge’s special membership programs.
“It’s a lot of working hours, capital and logistics involved but it’s nice seeing everything paying off,” Hibberts said. “The members are really enjoying everything.”
Hibberts believes WhiskGars being in the FUSE District works in his favor.
“All of the businesses downtown see the FUSE District really blowing up and doing well so we all feed off of each other,” Hibberts said. “I think more retail and a higher-end grocery store would really add to the growth.”
Hibberts encourages new business owners to make sure they plan out their ideas well before starting.
“Make sure you’re prepared and make sure your business is right for the area,” Hibberts said.
He calls his experience having his own business downtown a “dream come true.”
He plans to have a grand opening for WhiskGars between June 10 and 12.
Tony Coppola believes customers have embraced his Italian restaurant Mangiamo since opening downtown four months ago.
“It’s great seeing the enthusiasm of the city grow,” Coppola said.
Mangiamo Italian Café sits across from WhiskGars downtown and its menu includes lasagna, alfredo dishes, Italian paninis, woodfired flatbreads and pizzas.
Coppola says he appreciates having the opportunity to serve nearly 13,000 people since he opened his business four months ago.
“I love the people and the location and the atmosphere,” Coppola said.
Coppola receives a lot of traffic from the hotel guests staying at the Esquire hotel which can also be found on West Main Avenue.
“I think having more downtown shops would be helpful too,” Coppola said. “I’ve heard guests from the (Esquire) hotel asking about places to shop for clothes or shoes.”
He encourages new businesses to come to Gastonia’s downtown.
“It’s a good time,” he added.
Coppola will open an Italian pizza place within walking distance from Mangiamo Italian Café, which will serve New York-style ‘one-slice’ pizzas, Philly cheesesteaks and calzones.
The pizza spot will replace the former Life of Pie pizza place which was located at the intersection of West Main Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
He expects to open the pizza spot, Mangiamo Pizza, by the end of this month.
Ada Gonzalez opened a juice bar and Dominican sandwich shop, Bayahibe Cafe, downtown alongside her husband Freddy in January.
Ada says she has had nothing but good experiences in the area.
“It’s satisfying seeing people like what you do and hoping your business prospers,” Ada said.
She says downtown could use more foot traffic but you must have a mentality of “it will get better.”
“It’s hard having patience for everything to work out but you have to until things start working the way that they are meant to work,” she added.
Ada and Freddy’s restaurant services juices, hot sandwiches and Dominican appetizers such as ojas pastels, plantain dough filled with meat, or empanadas, a friend turnover with a meat filling.
“We love that Gastonia feels‘ homey, ’” Ada said. “The place here was already furnished and we love the vibe here.”
Ada believes more businesses will attract more people which will help all the current business owners in the area.
She also appreciates the local support to her business and hopes customers enjoy the restaurant’s food as if they were eating a hot meal at home.
Reach Janiya Winchester at 980-319-6819 or [email protected]