By Jackie Drake
East Carolina alumni Bobby Schultz ’13 and Gray Williams ’12 are well on their way to opening Longleaf Brewing Company in Greenville. This is the first business venture for the longtime friends and Raleigh natives, and will be the city’s first local brewery in years.
Greenville has been the largest city in North Carolina without a local brewery, according to Bobby and Gray, since Ham’s closed in 2010. While microbreweries produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, nanobreweries produce even less than that, Bobby says. But this nanobrewery is expected to provide a big boost to the economy and culture of Greenville. “I have always had the entrepreneurial bug,” Bobby says. “Gray and I have been friends since kindergarten, and when he approached me about his interest in starting a brewery, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.”
Longleaf will be located on Dickinson Avenue in a building that was built in 1924 and is currently being renovated. It will have new infrastructure but still retain its historical characteristics. Once open for business at a date to be determined, Longleaf will feature four to six regular brews, two or three seasonal varieties, and a few guest taps that will showcase beer from other local breweries in North Carolina. A tap room and patio will provide great spaces for patrons to enjoy the beer right where it’s brewed, in a relaxed atmosphere.
“In the short term, we hope we can become a local icon in Greenville,” Bobby said. “We also hope we can be one of the flagship establishments in the up-and-coming Dickinson Avenue area of Uptown. The area has a lot of charm and potential, so hopefully LBC can serve as a catalyst for new development in the area.”
Bobby earned an undergraduate business degree from Appalachian State, and decided to come to ECU to get his MBA. Gray earned his undergraduate business degree from ECU and decided to stay in Greenville after graduation. Gray is the beer expert for Longleaf. He home-brewed beer as a hobby before working at Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville.
The idea for Longleaf began in 2012. “From there, we were accepted into the Greenville SEED program and then eventually won a grant from the city’s Business Plan Competition,” Bobby said. “After teaming up with our third partner, Thomas Taft Jr., we felt we were ready and set the plan into motion.”
Bobby says the education he received at ECU has prepared him well for this venture. He has also gained assistance from the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), an inter-institutional program within the University of North Carolina system.
“My MBA from ECU has been priceless during this entire process,” Bobby says. “Even before I graduated, ECU offered a wide range of resources to help us develop our concept. Since graduation, I have remained in contact with professors and contacts at the SBTDC. The tools, skills, and resources that ECU offers to its students, both before and after graduation, have been absolutely essential to the creation of Longleaf Brewing Company.”