Introducing Hope for Better: Our Series Responding to Richard Fausset's Article in the Times

We moved to Wilkes County two months before the infamous New York Times article began making the rounds on social media. My wife, Lindsey, had landed something of a dream job at Camp Harrison, a resident camp in Boomer, associated with the YMCA of Charlotte. Though never as a camper, she spent a lot of time at Camp Harrison in her youth, and assures me we would have been married in the chapel overlooking the lake, if we had waited till spring to wed.

Was Fausett Wrong About Wilkes?

Until we moved here, my experiences with Wilkes County were limited to passing through on my way to visit friends at ASU. I remember watching NASCAR races at North Wilkesboro Speedway on television. I would reminisce every time I drove past the track on 421. I still believe it would be a great venue for other touring series, rally cars, monster trucks, etc.

Click to download the Wilkes Map of Awesomeness

Click to download the Wilkes Map of Awesomeness

Having only lived in Wilkes for a short time when I read Richard Fausset’s article, Feeling Let Down and Left Behind, With Little Hope for Better, I remember thinking, “Well, he’s not wrong.” I had already learned about the businesses that left Wilkes for more metropolitan pastures, the prescription drug problem, and that calling someone a Bruton Smith is the worst kind of curse. I had learned that people were discouraged and hoping that a regime change in the Executive Branch would trickle positive change down to the Boroughs. I had little reason to believe Fausset was wrong.

Was Fausset Right About Wilkes?

Before you dismiss me as another outsider with a loud pen, I have since learned that he failed to capture the whole truth. He may not be wrong, but neither is he correct. Fausset found his profile of a county that supported Trump in the primary, but missed, or downright ignored most of what made Wilkes great in the past, and all of what will make Wilkes great again, including, but not limited to:

  • Anchor Coffee Company: A third wave, direct trade, coffee roaster and shop in the heart of North Wilkesboro.
  • Copper Barrel Distillery: A moonshine distiller Fausset mentioned, as if we should be ashamed of our heritage, “The new tenant, a legal moonshine maker called the Copper Barrel Distillery, was proudly hawking bottles of the product that had once been the not-so-secret shame of this place…”
  • Call Family Distillery: Yet another craft distillery in Wilkes County.
  • Branciforte’s Brick Oven: A fine Italian eatery in North Wilkesboro.
  • Vineyards: Roaring River, Raffaldini, Cerminaro, and Stardust Farm, to name a few.
  • The People: Wilkes’ own people started all those companies that left, distilled moonshine coveted by underground bars and speakeasies, and practically invented NASCAR.

Wilkes County has a proud heritage of innovation. I don’t think Mr. Fausset covered that well in his piece. At the same time, it is not enough for us to shake our fists and say, “That hot shot New York guy was just too mean.”

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I was not around when every day was a Saturday, but I do enjoy learning about how great it was to be in Wilkes when NASCAR was still here. It is not enough to rest on what used to be; rather, we should let our innovative heritage motivate our future. There are people in Wilkes doing that today.

All of that is to say, Anchor Coffee and Buffaloe Marketing are partnering together to take an honest look at what’s true, and what’s missing in Feeling Let Down and Left Behind, With Little Hope for Better.