THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Inez and Stephen Ribustello, owners of the fine dining restaurant On the Square, saw a void in Tarboro and decided to fill it. The couple have plans to open a microbrewery—Tarboro Brewing Company, on Main Street.
“We’re trying to add ‘fun spots’ to help Tarboro have more to offer,” said Stephen.“It (the microbrewery) would be a place to hang out and enjoy company, kind of a gathering place, especially for younger people.”
He and Inez recently visited Full Steam, a brewery in Durham, and liked the landscape they saw – children playing arcade-type games, people coming into the brewery with their dogs and socializing, a man sitting at a table reading a book while drinking a beer.
“It has a really cool feel to it. It was a social, pet-friendly atmosphere and we liked it,” said Stephen. “That kind of feel is what we’re looking for. We want to have a ping-pong table, shuffleboard, fun games…The idea is that if kids come in, they’ll have a good time, too.”
The Ribustellos also plan to offer non-alcoholic beverages in addition to beer to promote a family-style atmosphere. However, the beer brewed in house will be the major draw for guests at the Tarboro Brewing Company.
Franklin Winslow, the quality assurance brewer at Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia will join the Ribustellos at Tarboro Brewing Company as the brew master.
“He knows how to brew beer from start to finish and he’s been doing it for a long time,” Stephen said. “We want to stick to handcrafted, Belgian-style ales. We’ll do some seasonal brews, as well.”
Guests at the microbrewery will have the option of having a beer in the tap room or having a cold one at a table just outside the restaurant. Once again, the Ribustellos want to bring a new experience to Tarboro residents.
“There’s really very little in the way of outdoor dining in Tarboro,” Stephen said.
The Ribustellos will also have their mobile food truck on hand just around the corner for serving customers at the microbrewery. A sushi night is definitely part of the plan.
The Ribustellos’ timeline for opening the brewery is six months to a year. The brewery will be located at 526 Main St., the Sullivan Building, adjacent to the Colonial Theater, which is also undergoing a renovation. One of the Ribustellos hopes is that the microbrewery will spark investment in downtown Tarboro, which will lead to a revitalization of the area.
“You might have some other business come in and they’ll feed off each other. It’s kind of a snowball effect,” Stephen said. He said town manager Alan Thornton and town planner Josh Edmondson have been very supportive of the project.
“We feel the microbrewery will have a tremendous impact on downtown revitalization and economic development,” said Edmondson, adding a thriving downtown is “one of the most important economic development tools a town or city can have.”
“I truly believe all it takes is one person to take that step to invest in downtown and others will follow,” Edmondson said. “We hope this leads to other property owners and business owners making improvements to their businesses (appearance improvements, business expansion, business operation). We see this as an opportunity to have downtown Tarboro alive after 5. We want people strolling the streets at 8 at night shopping, eating and enjoying what downtown has to offer.”
While many downtown businesses in Tarboro close on the weekends, the microbrewery would keep its doors open. Ideally, Stephen said he would like the business to be open every day of the week, with someone on hand in the tap room to serve beer to guests. The microbrewery will also have a retail section where customers can buy “beer to go” and other knick-knacks. The beer that’s sold in the store will carry the label of Tarboro Brewing Company.
“We want to promote Tarboro a little bit,” Stephen said. “It will bring attention to the town.”
With the reputation that On the Square has developed, the Ribustellos are likely to have regulars at their microbrewery shortly after opening their new business.
“I love that place (On the Square) and by the caliber of that restaurant, if they opened a microbrewery, it would probably be very good and well done,” said Ed Scanlan of Greenville. “If it’s a good quality microbrew, I’m all about it.”
Scanlan is a regular at Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville. Duck-Rabbit and Mother Earth in Kinston currently are the only microbreweries in the region.
“It’s a great restaurant. They’re nice people,” said Duck-Rabbit owner Paul Philippon, of On the Square.
The Ribustellos made their dream of opening a fine dining restaurant in Tarboro a reality and they’re one step closer to making their vision of opening a microbrewery a reality.
“Inez and I have been talking about doing a brewery for some time,” Stephen said. “This has been in the works for three or four years, but things are finally coming to fruition.”