Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: A bunch of grading has been done at the site of the old auction house in Fletcher off of Fanning Bridge Road. A couple of years ago a developer announced plans for a brewpub or restaurant there. Is something finally happening?
My answer: Wait a minute — are you saying there’s a vacant building in the greater Asheville area without a brewpub in it? I’ve just alerted the authorities … in this case the nonprofit enforcement agency Brew Everywhere Except Religious Entities aka BEERE. You don’t want to get on their bad side. OK, it’s my organization, but I can be a real bear about these things.
Real answer: Brace yourself for some cheering in the press box. Hey, I live in Fletcher, so this development is super cool, in my humble opinion.
“In the fall of 2019 we bought it, and we had this idea, because we knew things are moving south this way — of just filling in the gap between Asheville and Hendersonville,” said Zach Grogan, who works in development with the South Carolina-based Magnolia Property Group Inc. “We really like the area, and we put these plans together in late 2019, and they have not changed drastically since then.”
The new food hall concept, which plans to have a full ABC license, is going in a former auction house. Erected in the late 1940s, the building, as its name implies, served as an auction house for decades before going vacant a few years ago.
Fletcher, an incorporated town in northern Henderson County, lies about 12 miles south of Asheville and 9 miles north of Hendersonville on U.S. 25.
The pandemic threw a wrench in plans, and Grogan said they spent about a year and a half searching for just the right tenant for the two-story, 6,700-square-foot building. Located on Fanning Bridge Road a stone’s throw from Hendersonville Road in downtown Fletcher, the building is one of two on the two-acre site.
“So for us it was about finding the right partner, and we feel we did that,” Grogan told me as we stood behind the building. “The tenant is KO Restaurant Group that operates Hendough in Hendersonville and Gather in Greenville.”
Hendough is a chicken and burger restaurant in Hendersonville, while Gather is a food hall concept in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, with 13 different concepts, four of which KO operates.
“We just like the idea of food halls and the gathering space — something for everybody, family friendly, all that fun stuff,” said Paul Klaassen, who with his wife Sarah is partners in Hendough and KO Restaurant Group.
At the Auction House in Fletcher, the Klaassens will also partner with George Workman, who’ll be moving to the area to operate the project. A fourth business partner, Michael Olbrantz, developed one of the food concepts, Mercado Cantina, inspired by the food of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Paul Klaassen gave me a run-down of everything they’ve got planned for the building, which will retain its hardwood floors on the upstairs level, as well as a cool wood and steel frame ceiling. It will also boast a half-acre outdoor space, complete with seating and an outdoor stage for live music.
“At the Auction House, we’re putting in a KO Burger, which will be its second location,” Klaassen said, noting they have another at Gather in Greenville. “And Mercado Cantina, which will be a second location of that one as well. We are putting a new concept called Fish Camp 25, which will be kind of a typical fish sandwich platter, but there will also be some elevated stuff — lobster rolls, oysters, things like that.”
“Then we will have a bar called the ‘Blue Collar Bourbon Social,’ which will obviously be bourbon-focused,” Klaassen continued. “There’ll be some small plates and different bar snacks.”
Along with Mercado upstairs, they’ll have a wine bar called the “Auction House Wine Bar,” which will serve bottled wine, wine by the glass, and “different wine drinks — mimosas, frozen stuff, things like that,” Klaassen said, noting it will also serve charcuterie. That space, with 10 tables, also will be available for private events.
The main building will also feature a wrap-around porch with seating.
Klaassen said they expect to hire between 30 and 40 employees.
“With all of our restaurants we’re trying to pay at the top of the bracket, and starting to offer health insurance in all of our restaurants,” he said.
I was starting to get a little nervous at this point, as no one had mentioned beer.
“Yes, Blue Collar will have beer,” Klaassen said. “We’re not sure how many taps, but we’ll have several local beers on tap. Then, at Mercado, we always have an extensive tequila and mezcal list, as well as all the Mexican staples as far as beers go.”
By the way, Klaassen describes KO Burgers & Fries as offering “retro-style, griddled smash burgers.
“We’ll have fries and soft-serve ice cream with mix-ins,” Klaassen said. “There’ll be outdoor seating on both levels, kind of overlooking the green area, with a stage and TV, and plenty of green space for the kids.”
My only complaint is none of these fancy places were around when my two boys, now in their 20s, were youngsters. Ah, the smash burgers and cold beers I missed while babysitting…
But I digress.
Both bars will open to the outside.
“They’re going to be basically three-sided bars with one side opened to the outside, with an outdoor dining area,” Klaassen said. “It’s going to be really cool when it’s done. The building has a ton of character.”
That it does.
Grogan said another, smaller building at the back of the property — built in the 1970s but most recently used as a candle factor — also has potential. It’s about 2,500 square feet.
“We anticipate that being either another restaurant that is non-competitive with KO Restaurant Group, or a taphouse or a brewery or something like that,” Grogan said. “But yes, that absolutely will serve a purpose.”
A sizable chunk of the two acres will go to accommodate a paved parking lot with about 85 spaces. The Magnolia Group will put an entrance at the far west of the property, and visitors will enter through part of the building fronting Fanning Bridge.
What’s the ETA?
So, when will this project be open for business?
“We’re kind of guessing the end of spring-summer for it to be done, pending restaurant equipment,” Grogan said, noting supply chain issues have been a factor there. “But it’ll open some time next year, either in quarter two or three. Right now we’re just trying to get as much done while the sun is shining.”
Site work should be done “right after the first of the year,” he added.
The Town of Fletcher confirmed the project has the necessary town permits. Grogan said they’ve got their building permit in front of Henderson County for the second time.
“I’m guessing we start on the building either right before Christmas … or just after the first of the year,” Grogan said.
With just over 8,000 residents, Fletcher is growing, along with northern Henderson County and southern Buncombe County in general. The town’s “Fletcher Town Center” plan, which includes residential and commercial development along Hendersonville Road between Howard Gap Road and East Fanning Bridge Road, should also start taking shape next year.
Blue Ghost Brewing Company is on the other end of Fanning Bridge, Sierra Nevada’s gigantic production facility and restaurant sits a few miles away, and nearby Mills River is now home to several brew pubs and restaurants.
“We didn’t have to sell Paul and Sarah on this location,” Grogan said. “They saw the location, saw how cool the building was and were like, ‘We’re in.’”
The location is, for now, a hidden gem, and Klaassen expects it “to become kind of a hub for that area, as far as food and entertainment are concerned.
“We’re excited about the location with all the things happening in Fletcher, and its proximity to South Asheville there,” Klaassen said. “I think it’s going to be a hit. I know there’s not really much like that in Hendersonville, either.”
For his part, Grogan is overjoyed to finally get the project rolling — and with the Klaassens on board.
“We’re customers of theirs in the Gather location, and they’re the best thing going,” Grogan said. “We’re excited for them to come in and blow the damn doors off.”
As am I!
Whoops! Cheering in the press box again … somebody call BEERE!
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.