Distillery bringing renewed buzz to tiny Halifax town
Like many rural communities in North Carolina, Weldon has struggled in recent years.Posted — Updated
Census data from 2019 shows more than a third of households in the Halifax County town were in poverty, and median household income was down more than 11 percent from the year before.
“Over the years, we have lost population and businesses,” Mayor Julia Meacham said.
The town along the Roanoke River just southeast of Roanoke Rapids has a population of 1,700 people.
“We lost a lot of the people that own the businesses and that had been there for years and years, and when they passed, the stores became vacant,” Meacham said. “It’s a little bit depressing.”
But the last two years have seen the start of a turnaround, starting with a new business right on the river.
Two business partners spent $2 million to refurbish a pair of buildings, with plans to turn the river into liquor.
“Everything was going for it,” Weldon Mills Distillery co-owner Bruce Tyler said, “and I just sat back and thought, 'How come this hasn’t been done yet? How come nobody’s done anything with it?'"
With Weldon in a downturn, Tyler said he knew he was taking a risk.
“I think people were just afraid to reach out or go out on a limb and do it,” he said. “We got up and running and produced our first drop of bourbon in November of 2019, and it has been a rocket ship ride ever since.”
After Weldon Mills’ signature bourbon took home second place at the prestigious International Whiskey Competition, local economic development officials said tourists starts coming to town to visit the distillery. It's also inspired other development, such as Oregon-based Roseburg Forest Products' decision to invest $200 million in a high-tech sawmill that is expected to bring 137 jobs to Weldon.
“We are having a comeback now,” Meacham said, adding that she expects the positive momentum to continue.
“Other projects are coming in behind that that are just going to help,” she said. “I think we’ll just be put on the map again.”
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.