By Kelley Dodge – 2014
Driving into the quaint town of Pittsboro, we immediately swerve into a parking spot outside the historic Chatham County Courthouse. The Victorian-style building, with a three-layer cupola, marks the beginning of downtown Pittsboro. Before making it to the downtown shops we stop, mesmerized by artwork on the first building of the strip. Though still under construction, there is a beautiful mosaic of flowers that has been crafted with shiny pieces of mirror. As we are admiring the artwork, two women walk by, one of whom stops to chat with us. Cindy Edwards, a Pittsboro native, tells us about the town’s priority of preserving its history, emphasizing the displays of public art, which further enhances its charm.
Our first indication of this tightly knit community is in sitting down to dinner at S & T Soda Shop, a downtown restaurant that Cindy noted as one of her favorites. Upon opening the menu, we begin reading about the history of the Soda Shop, stumbling across the restaurant’s special acknowledgement of Cindy Edwards, one of the founding proprietors. Pittsboro’s community culture shined at S & T Soda Shop, where everyone seemed to be on a first name basis with each other, frequently moving from table to table to visit friends. Though outsiders, we were warmly greeted at the door and graciously taken care of by our young, energetic waitress. Not only was the service good, but the sandwiches, burgers, and milkshakes were a perfect combo.
Leaving S & T Soda Shop we wandered to a side street to explore the Food Truck Rodeo, another event that many locals recommended. The Rodeo boasted an assortment of food and drink options spanning from the Carolina Brewing Company to sub-sandwiches, and mini donuts to Italian ice, there was certainly something for everyone. Hosted by the Pittsboro Roadhouse General Store, the Rodeo was set up in a parking lot where people gathered at tables, enjoying their Saturday evening with good friends and good food.
After exploring the Food Truck Rodeo, we wandered back to Hillsboro Street, which runs through the heart of downtown Pittsboro, and stopped into a woodshop and an art store, both of which boasted many interesting crafts.The local artisans emphasized the fact that Pittsboro prides itself on small businesses, but expressed concern for an incoming development, something that Cindy and our waitress at S&T Soda Shop had also mentioned during our conversations. This concern, we soon realized, is one that is shared by many Pittsboro natives. On four different occasions, locals brought up displeasure about a new 7,000-acre technology park currently under construction. While Pittsboro is currently home to about 5,000 residents, the new development, dubbed as a “Live-Work-Play” community is expected to bring an estimated 55,000 people to the area. Local residents, restaurants, and shopkeepers all expressed concern about this influx of people and how it might drive out small local businesses or on the contrary, stimulate too much demand. The development also poses a threat to Pittsboro’s small-town, tight-knit community atmosphere. While the project has already been approved, one thing is sure: it will be nearly impossible to ruin Pittsboro’s innate charm, because the community will fight to preserve its historic, small-town atmosphere.
Leaving Pittsboro as the sun set over the Courthouse, we were smiling ear to ear. Because we had never heard of Pittsboro before, we journeyed to the town with very low expectations. However, our preconceptions could not have been more wrong. Of all the towns we visited for the Piedmont Region of Highway 64 project, Pittsboro was easily our favorite. We were enchanted by the welcoming community, talented artisans, tasty food, and historic buildings. Just minutes away from Raleigh and Chapel Hill, this gem is a must see for anyone living in or traveling through North Carolina.