Passers-by on King Street stare curiously at a storefront with “Blue’s Brews” painted in bold letters on the window, putting their hands around their eyes and pressing the glass to see if there’s movement inside. After months of waiting, owner Morgan Murray says it’s finally time for Boone’s new craft brew shop to open.
When customers come in, Murray asks if he can give them “the sales pitch”. He explains that, as many of them know, the business was Fruits, Veggies and More until the owner of the business fell ill with COVID-19.
Murray, who owns the building and leased the space, said he tried to keep the place open until the produce vendor could recover and resume operations, but said after some time it became clear that Fruits, Veggies and More was not going to reopen. That’s when he came up with the idea for a craft beer store that sells beers, ciders and seltzers from local and regional breweries.
This isn’t the first time Murray has visited the building, however. In the late 90s, Murray said he bought the store from a lady who ran a hairdressing business there. For a time he operated it as a bookstore. After closing the bookstore, he rented the space until this new business project. Murray worked for the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and continues to work for him remotely while living in the Boone area as he brews Blue’s Brews.
The name Blue’s Brews, despite its proximity to Blue Deer on King, actually comes from a place near his home, Murray said. He has a son named Blue, who Murray says had the honor of coming up with the company name. According to Murray, his son was a big help opening the store, staying late to help set things up, moving displays around the store, stocking shelves.
Blue’s Brews has about 68 local and regional breweries, 40 of which Murray said he has to source the products himself. Store customers during the soft launch could see a skeleton of the future: empty stands with signs indicating where four-packs, six-packs would be stored and where different varieties of craft beer would be displayed. In the refrigerated cases, Murray sells craft beers, ciders and seltzers in cans or bottles as well as in packs.
It took Murray longer than he had hoped to prepare for the opening of the store. From the start of planning to the store’s soft launch in mid-March, Murray said it took about a year and four months to develop. Even recently it had to wait a little longer, with some products waiting on the shelves until it was time to open.
“Don’t worry, I had some brave taste testers,” Murray said. He enlisted a team of volunteers to sample the produce and make sure everything was safe to sell, but because the cans had been on the shelves for some time while he worked to get the store ready to open, Murray said that he would sell everything at wholesale or below until the old inventory was completely emptied to make room for new stock.
“I never got far enough to open my own business,” Murray said. He’s rented the place for years since he closed the bookstore years ago, but said he was excited to open Blue’s Brews. He said a craft beer business was perfect for the location because it was already equipped with the refrigerators and displays he would need.
So far, he said, it’s been a good start – with students and community members coming from the streets.
Although opening Blue’s Brews was an accomplishment in itself, Murray said he had far-reaching dreams for the place, should he succeed. He said he wanted to invite the Mexican food truck company behind the store, El Tacorriendo, to use the kitchen out back. He also dreams of one day turning it into a pub.
To visit Blue’s Brews, the location is at 362 West King Street.
Marisa Mecke is a member of the Report for America body for Mountain Times Publications. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newspapers to report on underreported issues.