Southern Grace Distilleries searching for stories from former prison
By Amanda Raymond
CONCORD — Southern Grace Distilleries is moving their operations into a former prison and they are looking for photographs and stories from former inmates and employees.
Southern Grace Distilleries, currently at 20 Cabarrus Ave. W., will be moving to Cabarrus Correctional Center in Mount Pleasant, making it the first distiller to operate in a former prison.
Cabarrus Correctional Center closed in 2011.
Leanne Powell, president of the distillery that is the maker of the award-winning Sun Dog 130 white whiskey, said their current building is 2,200 square feet. They wanted to find a location that would give them more space to increase production.
Powell said the prison is a great place to brew. The same things about the building that kept prisoners from escaping will keep their product safe.
“It’s built like a vault, so it’s a great place to make liquor,” she said.
The distillery offers tours and walk-throughs of the liquor-making process, and Powell knew that people would also want to hear about the prison while on those tours.
“We really wanted to honor the history,” she said.
She is looking for photographs and stories from former employees and inmates about their time at the prison.
Powell has already been learning about the history of the prison. One thing she learned was that there used to be a program that allowed prisoners to care for and train dogs to make them more adoptable.
That sort of thing meshes well with a Southern Grace Distilleries’ program that makes a contribution to animal shelters for every bottle sold.
She has also heard that there was a horticulture program that was done in conjunction with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Powell particularly wants to hear the stories from those programs, but, being that it was a prison, she is willing to hear the good and the bad.
“We’re ready to hear whatever folks want to tell us,” she said.
She wants to hang the shared photographs around the building so that visitors will be able to see what the property used to be like.
“Hopefully we can show that something that had a negative connotation can turn into a positive,” she said.
The stories and photographs will also be included in a video for visitors to watch. The video will also feature the history of the property and surrounding area and the distilling process.
Powell will be collecting stories and photographs until the end of August. The distillery will be open for tours at the new location on Oct. 1.
“The main thing is that I think this distillery can give what had been an abandoned property new life,” Powell said.
Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.