Former N. C. prison to become distillery

Southern Grace Distilleries makes Sun Dog 130, a corn whiskey that has won two gold medals at international competitions in the past year.

Southern Grace Distilleries makes Sun Dog 130, a corn whiskey that has won two gold medals at international competitions in the past year.

May 25. Southern Grace Distilleries, Inc., of Concord has announced a plan to expand production operations and move the distillery to a soon-to-be-renovated correctional facility in eastern Cabarrus County.

The move into a 13,000-plus square foot dormitory of a former North Carolina prison brings a $1.5 million investment into the area and utility to what had become a dead asset on the state books. The prison operated from 1929 until 2011.

“We are excited at the opportunity to partner with the award-winning Southern Grace Distilleries to repurpose the old prison. What a novel idea,” said Tom Earnhardt, partner with Mount Pleasant Properties, which purchased the 22.4-acre former prison from the state.

“Since the prison shut down some five years ago, the property was quickly becoming an eyesore. Renovating this property will create much-needed jobs and help stimulate economic development in the area.”

Earnhardt’s business partner, Dr. Allen Dobson, said, “We are pleased to partner with Southern Grace and welcome them to Mount Pleasant. 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.”

Need for additional space prompted the move. Southern Grace Distilleries has developed and licensed five whiskey products in addition to Sun Dog 130, and the former prison site will allow space for production of all of these as well as an aged whiskey program. In addition to the 13,000-plus production facility, the distillery will utilize an original 4830-square foot dormitory that was built in 1929 as a barrel house to age bourbon.

“The expansion of Southern Grace Distilleries to Mount Pleasant is going to be very good for our area. Southern Grace will bring much-needed tourism to our part of Cabarrus County and, as they grow, more jobs. We are also happy to bring in an industry that will be a good water customer to decrease the burden on the people of Mount Pleasant,” said Mayor Del Eudy.

Pending local, state and federal permitting and site approval, the distillery plans to be at the new location by Labor Day and will offer tours in October. While there has been some planning for a former prison to be developed in Tennessee, it appears that Southern Grace Distilleries will be the first distillery in the nation to be fully operational in a former prison.

“Of all the places we considered for our expansion, this location was far and away the best one to meet the needs of our growing company,” said Southern Grace CEO Leanne Powell. “We wanted to stay in Cabarrus County, have room to expand production, start our aged-product program and provide a unique tourism experience. The prison location will allow us to do all of these things.”

Southern Grace Distilleries was recently named Small Business of the Year by the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It has been in business since March 2014, and Sun Dog 130 has been on shelves in Washington D.C. and North Carolina since February 2015.


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