Concord, Raise Your Glass!

If you were so lucky to have joined in with me last week on Facebook live, you not only got to see me in all my glory, with a fancy Mary Kay Charcoal Mask adorned on my face, but you also were a part of a new idea that I conjured up to help me organize these blog posts for my local favorites. I originally was just going to write one large post about ALL my favorite places around Concord, NC, but when I began to make a list…

whew, chil’.

I realized that I really really love my city. There was absolutely no way to write a blog post about all my favorite places without it turning into a book. That’s when I thought that maybe just choosing 2-3 local establishments and business owners or small shops once a month would help me not feel so overwhelmed. Plus, it gives me a reason to eat, drink & shop around town for what quite possibly may be the unforeseeable future! Winning!


*clears throat *

*steps onto soap box*

I truly believe that it is so important to shop local and support small businesses as much as possible. Every time you purchase something from a local place, you’re supporting a family…. a neighbor… a dream. Our community! The dollars you spend go directly to their dinner tables and puts clothes on their kids backs. You’re helping a stay at home Mommy stay home with her babes, because (side-soap-box) maternity leave in the US can kick rocks. You’re helping a single parent make ends meet. You’re helping a Vet who’s having trouble finding work make their own way. The reasons and examples are endless, but mostly you’re supporting a dream. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that, if possible?! Because it’s such a passion of mine, and because I want to give my city as much help as I can, I thought this to be a fun way to give them just that! May these shout outs help local stores and hopefully, in turn, bring in YOUR business. For the record, these businesses had no idea I planned to do this. No one has asked me to review them nor have I received any type of compensation from them (nor would I accept any). You know why, though? Because supporting your local business does not mean hitting your friends up with their small business, and fishing for a discount or a freebie. Nope! Pay full price. Support the cause. Be the wind in their sails, er… the change in their pockets. Support them, fully. Sure, their product may be slightly more than the similar Amazon product in your shopping cart, but when you buy from a local small shop? You get local handmade goodness. You get customer service that no online service can beat. You get someone who truly cares about the quality of the product as much as you, the consumer, does. But hey, If you can’t purchase anything? Share their merchandise on social media, like their photos, refer more friends to them and their service. There are so many things you can do to help support local business, but asking for a discount surely isn’t one of them.

*steps off soap box*

So, without further adieu, I give to you this months three local businesses: Madelines Bath Magic, Groundwork Common & Southern Strain Brewing Co. I randomly chose these three one night in my Facebook live video, and I cannot tell you how excited I was about it. A good bubble bath, a craft beer, and then a latte?! YES. PLEASE.

Madeline’s Bath Magic

I first learned about Madeline’s Bath Magic because the owner, Melissa Protheroe, is also a Mommy at the school that my little one goes to & that I work at Part Time. I believe my initial experience with her bath bombs was from a special teacher deal she was running last summer as a “thank you” to those who had helped during the school year. I had heard nothing but amazing reviews from trusted friends, and had to take the deal while it was available. I thought “ok, Theo will like this because he really likes the little color tablets for his bath water” and was (of course) all about supporting a local Mama doing her thang. When we dropped that first bath bomb into our tub, I never realized how cool it would be to watch it fizzle out. Theo & I both were mesmerized. It took a whole lot of adult-like-restraint-and-responsibility to say “no” to my kiddo when he asked if we could toss in one more. Not only were they fun to watch fizzle out, but the tub looked like art!! And smelled ahhhhhmazing.

“That’s it”, I thought to myself, “I’m getting in, too!” and listen here, friends, I don’t care how weird you think it is! I got my over-sized booty right in that bath water with my tot and it was glorious. Granted, it didn’t last long because, before you know it , my legs were being used as car tracks and I’m like 102.5% sure I got peed on… Yay, #momlife. Bet you can guess what I did the following night, though! A L O N E. The essential oils and scents that Melissa chooses for each bath bomb is kind of like choosing a new story to read every night. It’s like being transported away, a mini get-away in the form of a bubble bath. All your senses heightened, yet, calmed at the same time. Each bath bomb different, rewarding, and each leaving you wanting “just 5 more minutes”. Unfortunately, the water grows cold, ten little fingers are wiggling at you from under the locked bathroom door and it’s time to come up for air from your mini escape. But those amazing 15-20 minutes feel like a little spa date with yourself and you just want to hug Melissa the next time you see her. I just might, you know… you’ve been warned, girl! I love the way they smell and feel, leaving my skin feeling silky and moisturized. I just love the whole experience. If I’ve had an especially difficult day? Her bath bombs are my go to special treat and self care essential. Can’t pour from a cup that’s empty, hunny. Soak them tired buns.

Melissa also offers other products besides bath bombs such as scrubs, lotions, lip balms, bath jelly & so so so much more. Click on the title of this section, or click here, to go to her website for a menu. You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram: @melissaprotheroe. There you can read more on her story, the sweet & beautiful reason behind the business, and reach out to her personally for any orders. The story and reasoning alone will make you eager to support her and her small business. She’s a super patient and understanding soul. I know this personally as she has handled Theo’s birthday gift favors, my wedding party favors, Christmas gifts, and various gifts for all sorts of occasions. She always works with me on my budget, and finds ways to make me feel special. You just can’t get that kind of service from big corporations. Thank you Melissa & “Madeline’s Bath Magic” for all you’ve personally done for me and for your kind & loving heart. Check her out, y’all!

Groundwork Common

Quick backstory of why I love GWC so so much… A couple years ago, my Mother in Law moved from WV to our sweet little town of Concord, just off of Church Street. Now, if you’re not familiar with Concord geography, Church Street is just one of the major bloodlines that will transport you to all the local spots around town. I’ve driven up and down this road a gojillion times since being handed my license, and have even had 1 car break down in the intersection right in front of Danny’s gas station. One of my first jobs was right off Church Street, my Dad’s accounting business. We watch the parade every year from Church Street. You can easily say that I am emotionally tied to this area and to the businesses on this road. So, can you imagine my excitement when I heard that we were getting a local coffee shop smack dab in the middle of it all??

I. Was. Thrilled.

I’ve been a coffee connoisseur since my sippy-cup days, no joke, and I don’t play when it comes to my morning motivator. I can’t start my day without a good cup of joe, and you can bet your sweet espresso that I don’t waste my time on a “bad” cup. I like it hot, iced, frozen, black, white, tan, tall, large, skinny, full fat, with or without cream… but for now? You can keep your decaf. Just sayin’. So, whilst helping my MIL move into her new humble abode and I saw the signs for the new place? Walking distance from her home?? I about called her realtor to buy the house out from underneath her…. but that’s when this beautiful realization hit my square in the face. “I can go drop off my crazy-crotch-gobblin’ at her house, and go enjoy coffee solo any time she’s available.” Anna, when I encouraged you to buy your specific house? I did it for the coffee.

I mean, look at that art work. Coffee is art, y’all. If you don’t agree with me, you don’t have to keep reading. That’s fine. Know you’re wrong, but that’s fine. My “go-to” coffee order is either a Mocha Latte or a Cold Brew. When I first started going to GWC regularly, I easily became addicted to their Mocha Latte’s. I basically judge coffee shops based off their Mocha’s. It’s my measurable way of having a ranking system. I think one of my favorite reasons for going to Groundwork Common is that their flavoring with the Mocha is consistent. I’ve frequented other coffee shops in my time & sometimes the consistency changes upon who the barista is that day. I’ve noticed, upon being mesmerized by the drink crafting process, that GWC meticulously measures and carefully weighs their syrups or ingredients when pouring a beverage. Their espresso is smooth, and in my opinion, does not have a bitter after taste like I have experienced elsewhere.

Need a place to sit and relax? Looking for a place that’s got a zen-like atmosphere to answer some e-mails? On the hunt for a location that you can sip away your stress? Look no further than Groundwork Common. Honestly, who ever chose their furniture and decor is going to be getting a personal call from me soon because mi casa needs some love, pronto. I would live in GWC if they would let me. I feel so at peace shortly after I enter their store, and the feeling lasts long after my final sip. Sometimes, if I’m feeling squirrelly, I’ll bring my little dude up there with me for a hot chocolate. Of course, he almost always knocks it on the ground and creates a scene (terrible three’s are so much fun), but the staff are always so understanding and friendly. They have never made me feel as though I’m an inconvenience, despite our clumsy ways. The next time you’re sitting on their comfy leather couch? The cool chocolate stain on their rug is from Theo. It’s barely there, thank goodness, but this Mama remembers. *palm to face*

They also now offer food!! I personally have only ever had their bakery items, like the above pictured banana chocolate chip bread which was (sorry, gotta say it) super moist. *shudders* I have craved it since my last time ordering it. It was a perfect pair with my Holiday Orange Mocha Latte. I can’t wait to go in and try some of the new food options at my next visit, but this last weekend I was only in the mood for my regular. I’ve been following them avidly on Instagram, and I think the next time I’m in there I’ll be trying the toast with strawberry chia jam and goat cheese. Does that not sound amazingly appetizing?! Well if not, crazy kids, they have various bowls, toasts and plates for anyones tastes buds. Honestly, I look forward to trying them all. All the ingredients are locally sourced, even their milk in their drinks! That’s just a win-win for me. Other items I’ve tried and can vouch for is the Cold Brew and the Maple Butter Latte. Their Cold Brew is a refreshing iced beverage that I prefer for an afternoon pick-me-up that is just sweet enough for my liking. I can also attest to their Maple Butter Latte. In fact, it’s always an internal battle for which one I’ll order when trying to make a selection between that and the Mocha. I would say it’s a good 50/50 for the frequency of which I decide upon. Either way, I don’t feel you’d be disappointed. In fact, I think you’ll find yourself in my predicament: hooked. So, the next time you find yourself making your gozillionth-and-one trip down Church Street? Stop in at Groundwork Common, and let them work their coffee magic.

Side Note & Ordering Hack: Cloosiv. This was a game changer for me! Sometimes as a busy Mama with three jobs and umpteen hobbies, I just don’t have time to sit in a relaxed atmosphere and soak up the espresso aroma. Boo. I forget how I stumbled upon this little nugget of golden information, probably somewhere in social media land… but Cloosiv is an app specifically for local coffee shops & online ordering. It’s super simple, just click on this link & download the app. I believe there’s a first coffee credit you receive for downloading, but don’t quote me on that. All I know is, when I’m in a hurry and need to order-pick up-run? This is my saving grace. After ordering online & paying through Apple Pay (or whatever you set up), you just run inside and they’ll have it waiting on you! No lines, no fuss, no gimmicks. Just coffee, and fast. Can I get a hallelujah!!!! Mmmm.

Thank you Groundwork Common for your dedication to our community, and for serving some of the best coffee I’ve ever had grace my lips. A trip to your establishment is never time wasted, and I will always look forward to my next visit.

Southern Strain Brewing Company

Dear Southern Strain, let me list the ways that I love thee:

Amazing drinks, memorable times with friends, fantastic live music on the regular?

S O L D .

In fact, I think I can blame, er… give credit to Southern Strain for my newfound love of sours. I’ve heard of people either loving or hating a “sour” beer, and I’ve tried a many in other breweries. Honestly? I’m not much of a beer drinker. Shocker? I’m a margarita, mimosa or wine lover. Not a shocker? #basic. I must say though that when I heard Southern Strain had a beer on their list named after one of my favorite local sodas, Cherry Lemon, I had to try it. I think the majority of Concord had to try it. Their information from the website for the Cherry Lemon is as follows:

“A nod to a local classic, this mixed fermentation sour ale uses copious amount of Montmorency Red Tart cherries along with lemon and orange zest. Fermented with Voss Kveik to emphasize the cherry flavor.”

Translation? It’s a glass of O-M-yum. It’s because of this sour beer that I decided to become more aware of sours, rather than just drinking them all willy-nilly-like, and have in turn become quite the sour snob. You can read about my husbands and my trip to Nantahala Brewing and Bryson City Outdoors in the blog post about Bryson City, and how there I tried almost ever sour beer I could get my paws on. I’m a sour beer believer and I blame Southern Strain and their Cherry Lemon. I think, or at least my justification for, I enjoy sours more so than the “hoppy” sort is because I’m so used to drinking more tart-like drinks (hint the margs or the mimosas). So if you’re at a brewery one evening, especially Southern Strain, and you’re not sure what to order because you’re typically a mixed-drink type of person? I feel like a sour option is a good bet. At 4.5% ABV, it’s not something that’ll hit you too hard (unless you drink them as quickly as I do…. and, well, if you’re a light weight like me).

I’ve tried other beers at Southern Strain, also. Like I said before, I’m not exactly a “beer drinker” so I’m probably not the girl who should be writing a review on the beer itself. BUT, I can say that the O.K. Lunch, Mello Morning, & Hop Helix are also ones that I could easily drink if they just so happen to be out of Cherry Lemon. Now, please don’t beat me up if I’m totally wrong on any of this. Especially if you actually know what you’re talking about when it comes to talking-ale. I’m just giving you MY review on the drinks through my eyes and taste buds. Shake ya heads, if ya wanna. I would compare the O.K. Lunch to a light beer, like a Bud Light. So if that’s your go-to on a night out, that’s one that I think you’d enjoy. My husbands favorite is one that they don’t actually offer anymore, the Double Hop Helix, but he seconds and favors the Hop Helix. You know, because of its hoppy-IPA-ness. I have tried it and, yes, I do like it… but at 7% ABV? This Mama wasn’t ready. Which means I really wasn’t ready for the Mello Morning, coming in at 7.5% ABV, but the coffee after taste on that was so smooth and easy to drink. I kind of wanted a Bojangles biscuit after sipping on that for a little while, and I couldn’t even tell you why. I guess it just reminded me of a good southern breakfast, and Bojangles is my hangover cure. I’ve given up the Bojangles on HWY 601/ HWY 49, and if you live in this area: YOU. KNOW. WHY. That’s just a side note, though. Carrying on.

Any hoo. Speaking of food? Southern Strain now offers their patrons “next level” bites. “Hot Box Next Level Kitchen” is literally just a hole in the wall inside the brewery, but is nothing small in regards to flavor. I personally recommend the Risotto Fritters. I’ll admit, I’m a little bit of a deep fried foodie. Ok, a lotta bit. One of my favorite seasons? Fair season. Yes, you will catch me standing in that Summer heat, in those long lines and paying admission fees just to get an overpriced corndog and deep fried Oreos. Y’know what? Happy as a lark. That’s besides the point. Hot Box is more than deep fried goodness, but I didn’t have to read much further down on the menu when I saw “fritter”. It’s literally the first thing on the menu, too, y’all. It ain’t always easy being this easy, ya feel me?

Photo by Alexis Hannah Photography

Southern Strain is not only a great idea for beers and yummy bites, but I absolutely love their set up. The way they re-did the space? One word. Beautiful. Whether you’re inside the Taproom, near the machines where the beer making goes down, outside on the pet friendly patio under the strands of lights, or even the bathrooms?? You’ll notice that every inch of the space was thought about, cared for, and brought back to life. I think my favorite feature is the bright blue glass-mosaic backdrop at the bar. We hear that it’s repurposed from glass that was strewn about on the ground when they first began bringing Southern Strain to life. How cool is that?! They could have tossed it, but they found a purpose for it. They used what they had and from that they birthed sophistication, uniqueness, and brilliance. Slow clap and standing ovation to this new local spot. I look forward to many more evenings and celebrations spent here and, of course, I look forward to my next glass of Cherry Lemon. Cheers!

Photo by Alexis Hannah Photography

So, dear fellow Concordians: this is my review of these three outstanding local places. Granted, I didn’t try everything on their full menus nor did I know all the ins and outs of their business; however, this is my experience and my choices that I would fully recommend to you to try!! Feel free to make your way to try them out for yourself, and let me know how it goes!! Maybe you have tried something there that you would recommend to me to try! That’d be awesome! Just leave us a message or comment below your suggestions from these places, or heck, any place around town!! As a matter of fact, any place at all! We travel!!

Raise your glass, y’all, even if its from your bubble baths!
Seriously? We have one cool city.

Get out there, shop small & support those big dreamin’ friends of ours!

With Love,

Some photo’s taken in this post were the amazing work of Alexis Hannah Photography. Click here for more information on her work, pricing, and ways to reach her for your family photography needs.

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