PITTSBORO — At the southwest corner of the town’s traffic circle, SoCo Pittsboro aims to bring a return to the bustling downtown lifestyle that “originally put Pittsboro on the map,” in the words of its developer.
With the additions of Havoc Brewing Company in July and Doherty’s Irish Pub and Restaurant — announced last week — coming to the complex, SoCo developer and co-owner Greg Stafford hopes to continue his vision of creating a lively downtown scene.
“We hope that corner would become really, really a neat place to be and keep downtown Pittsboro a neat place to be,” Stafford said. “They’re [his tenants] putting a very significant investment in downtown Pittsboro and turning that corner into an even more inviting space … it’s going to be pretty cool.”
The SoCo space previously housed the Justice Motor Company, which was owned by brothers Frank and Fred Justice. Stafford and his wife Paula bought the building from the Justice family in 2016. Since then, the Staffords have worked to bring unique eateries to downtown Pittsboro, including The Mod and now, Havoc and Doherty’s.
“Mr. Justice decided to sell the property and was kind enough to sell it to us,” Stafford recounted. “What he wanted and what we want is a place to do something in Pittsboro … We want it to become a destination where you’ll find something you like.”
Havoc will be housed at 39 West St. next to The Mod. The brewery is set to open its flagship location at SoCo early this year, according to Havoc’s Facebook page.
The Chatham County-based brewery will have a large outdoor patio where patrons can get a view of the historic county courthouse nearby and a venue for local musicians to play. Stafford said Havoc will bring a unique experience to downtown and complement many surrounding businesses.
“We hope that it makes downtown cool because there’s room for several hundred people on that patio,” Stafford said. “It’s a big outdoor seating area, and so there will be a lot of room to do a lot of cool stuff on there — live music, bouncy castles, car shows or whatever they want to do. It will be really awesome.”
Doherty’s will be located on the other side of The Mod and is expected to open later this year, according to Stafford. Doherty’s is known for its Irish pub fair, ranging from brisket to fish and chips, as well as a wide array of Irish-inspired cocktails and Guinness beer.
Doherty’s co-owner Donavon Favre said before the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his business partner Sami Taweel were looking to open a third location of their award-winning restaurant. When Favre walked through downtown Pittsboro toward SoCo, he said he felt the environment was perfect.
“Our restaurant has a family feel to it,” Favre said. “As soon as we got to Pittsboro and started walking downtown, meeting with friendly people, it fit with exactly what we do and who we are.”
Favre said he, along with Stafford and the owners of The Mod and Havoc, want to work to have collaborative events to create a one-of-a-kind experience downtown. That could include working with Havoc to deliver food to their customers, holding joint events on the patio space outside of SoCo and more.
“We don’t want it to be competitive, we want it to be collaborative because the more we can make it a destination spot for all of us, the better off we all will be,” Favre said.
Favre said another factor in choosing Pittsboro as the location for the new Doherty’s was incoming growth. Stafford’s dedication to his town, Favre said, also helped him and his business partner decide to call Pittsboro their third home.
“One of the big things Greg and I connected on was he said he wanted something people are going to want to go to that’s higher end, delicious food that’s going to be different than what we have right now,” Favre said. “He has enthusiasm for downtown Pittsboro and he wants this to be a destination spot, not just for us, but for the community.”
Stafford said Chatham Park, the massive planned community north of downtown, had a role in what types of businesses he hoped to draw to SoCo; he wants to create a place where both long-time residents and new ones can enjoy.
“There are times when people want to go to the kind of restaurant that’s going to be in a major development, like Chatham Park, and there are times when people want to go to the hipster, all downtown, cool place,” Stafford said. “One of the mistakes I made was when I started this, I was seeing it as ‘us’ versus ‘them’ … It’s not us or them because the same people are going to be going to both.”
SoCo now has all its tenants, but Stafford said he still owns other properties he’s looking to lease out. While Stafford and his wife have plans for their remaining development properties and projects in the Pittsboro area, they can’t do anything until Pittsboro fixes its pause on additional sewer allocation.
“There isn’t any sewer left in Pittsboro so unless and until Pittsboro can provide infrastructure, nothing else is coming downtown,” he said. “If we can get the infrastructure we need, we are in a position where downtown Pittsboro is in a position to be a great complement to Chatham Park, and vice versa.”
SoCo will provide a special space for these new restaurants to work together, Stafford says. What’s most important to him, though, is SoCo’s ability to bring added life to a downtown area and to enhance the incoming growth coming to the Pittsboro community.
“When the Christmas parade goes by, you can stand on the patio and watch the whole thing, or when Carolina beats Duke each and every time they play, it’s a place to gather and enjoy their demise … It should be a cool place, and I hope people love it,” Stafford said.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.