PITTSBORO — Greg Stafford is known around downtown Pittsboro for his SoCo development, which aims to deliver a lively food and social scene to downtown.
SoCo’s not quite finished yet, but Stafford’s work is already earning accolades. He’s just been recognized by the N.C. Main Street program as the 2022 North Carolina Main Street Champion for his work in revitalizing downtown Pittsboro.
“While there’s been much support for the revitalization efforts in downtown Pittsboro, there’s one person that stands a bit taller than the massive momentum, and that is Greg Stafford,” Pittsboro Downtown Development Director Theresa Thompson said during the commissioners’ meeting last week. “He was recognized … for his hard work over the years renovating several properties downtown and for his support of the Downtown Pittsboro program.”
Over the last few years, Stafford and his wife, Paula, have developed and leased out the space in the southern corner of the traffic circle surrounding the Chatham County Courthouse. The vision: to create a new, lively environment in the heart of historic downtown Pittsboro.
“We hope that corner would become really, really a neat place to be and keep downtown Pittsboro a neat place to be,” Stafford previously told the News + Record. “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.”
Stafford has been involved in several organizations working with the same vision by serving as a member of the Main Street Pittsboro organization, the Downtown Advisory Board affiliated with the town and served as the Chairperson for the Economic Vitality Committee with the town.
Five properties total have been renovated by Stafford and his wife, and according to the resolution read by Mayor Cindy Perry and passed unanimously by the board of commissioners last Monday, the Staffords have created “positive economic change for the Pittsboro community,” through their work in downtown.
“Gregory Stafford is well known by his cheerful, laid-back demeanor and his willingness to spare no effort to better Downtown Pittsboro, helping to cultivate a vibrant and thriving community,” the resolution states. “The town of Pittsboro recognizes his efforts, hard work and dedication, which have been instrumental in the revitalization of Downtown Pittsboro.”
Stafford received his award at the 2023 Annual Main Street Conference in Statesville in last month, and he said the conference provided him the opportunity to learn how municipal workers view downtown revitalization.
“A lot of them (municipal workers) may not understand what it takes to make a business work, but at the same time … to an extent I don’t have a clue what they had to deal with,” Stafford told the News + Record. “I was gaining an understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish.”
The annual conference mostly recognized various local government agencies and developers for revitalization projects. However, Stafford said he doesn’t consider himself a developer — rather, he and others at the conference saw themselves as residents with a dream for the future.
“Almost all of us who were on the business side who received the award … we’re called developers, but it’s kind of an overtop statement,” Stafford said. ““We’re not developers — we’re tiny business owners just trying to do something.”
Stafford said he’s not the only person who deserves credit for the work around downtown Pittsboro — his wife also plays an instrumental role in the vision for a lively Pittsboro.
“Everyone gives me awards and kind of seems to overlook the fact that it’s (Paula’s) money, her plan, her design,” he said.
During the board of commissioners’ presentation recognizing Stafford, Perry also gave Paula Stafford a shoutout. Perry said she remembered when Stafford approached her and others working at Second Bloom of Chatham, a nonprofit aiming to provide resources to those impacted by domestic violence.
“I remember, Greg, when you came to us at the Second Bloom shop … and said ‘You’re going to have to leave — we’re going to tear this building down because Paula has a dream,’” Perry reminisced to the board. “Paula’s dream is for it to be a gathering area … a place where Pittsboro can come together and be the special community that it is. Paula, I think this award — in many respects — is your award as well.”
So what’s next for the Staffords?
According to Stafford, he and his wife are hard at work developing plans to renovate and use the space where the old hospital in Pittsboro used to stand. The use for the building hasn’t been decided yet, but Stafford said he hopes to continue building the Pittsboro of his — and his wife’s — dreams.
“If everything were to work out, we’d live on the upstairs floor of the hospital and get old there,” Stafford said. “I want to be the old curmudgeon wandering downtown Pittsboro, doing nothing else but eating there and hanging out … hopefully, it’s super cool.”
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com.