Gate City Growlers

by Rebecca Harrelson

Rebecca Harrelson


There is an unspoken appeal to Gate City Growlers, as if you may not even know why you like hanging out there.

It doesn’t feel like a bar, it’s not dirty or sleazy. People generally aren’t walking around wasted spilling beers everywhere. Rather than having televisions posted in every corner, there are none.

Opened on March 13 of this year, co-owner Daniel Leonard had originally thought the bottle shop would be a great idea for his retiring dad. Realizing this idea suited his life plan better, Leonard dove into the opening of a new bottle shop.

Leonard turned to his longtime friend David Strader with the idea. Strader, only needing the night to speak to his wife, called back his friend to say that he was “all in.”

“The goal of the shop is to create an atmosphere for people to come in and try a bunch of different North Carolina breweries they might not know about,” Leonard said before explaining the ins and outs of running his own shop.

Rebecca Harrelson

“We carry about 54 North Carolina Breweries, the smallest breweries are the ones we want because those are the ones we want to get more recognition. I always keep the majority of North Carolina breweries on tap,” he said. There is still great variety in the shop since GCG is now carrying wines from Round Peak Vineyard, a small North Carolina-based vineyard, and constantly keeping great U.S. beers stocked and ready to be enjoyed.

Leonard is a UNCG-alumni, and also has Socially Incorporated, his clothing business. Before he was taking some time off from his apparel company, but now has the opportunity to sell his clothing in the shop. Opening your own shop with a close friend can be daunting, even for a business minded individual. “There is always a bit of nervousness and fear,” Leonard said. “Yet, at the end of the day, it feels more normal to have the pressure of doing this than it does to work for somebody else and keep wondering ‘what if.’ I don’t ever like wondering what if I had done this or that, it could go well or go to shit, but I won’t know until I try. If I see a button I’m going to touch it, if I see an opportunity I’m going to take it.”

Rebecca Harrelson

The idea of a bottle shop is not a new one, and comradery between all similar shops is ideal but not always the case. “I have a great relationship with Josh Coe over at Beer Co. It works out well if I don’t have something I send them to Beer Co., if they don’t have something they will send customers to me. But I also have been told to get out of bottle shops just for walking in and being a customer. Realistically I could look at everyone who sells alcohol as competition, but if you let competition sit in your head too much you won’t focus on what you are doing right,” Leonard said.

Gate City Growlers is also a sponsor of Hopfest happening August 22. Leonard started working with Ryan Saunders, one of the founders of the event, last year. This year he is in the position to sponsor the event. Alongside that he will be curating all the beer and helping run operations. “We are really excited about that, lots of great breweries, bands, food, party and it’s my birthday weekend. So it’s going to be a good time.”

Leonard may not remember your name but he will remember your face and the kind of beers you enjoy. “I want it to feel homely. Different kinds of people come in and sit at the bar, I’ll talk to them, what’s their name, where are they from, what they do, on that level I want them to feel at home here.” !