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The Church Street Brewery is located in the center of Uptown, in what use to be called Mechanicsville, a mile north of downtown. In the 1930s, during the Depression, only the rich factory owners could afford to live in downtown. The small-business owners of automobile shops or tailors could not afford the city taxes in downtown. These small-business owners moved to Mechanicsville, where now stands The Church Street Brewery.

On any night, this former furniture factory, a one-story remodeled building is surrounded by several dozen folks sitting or standing on the outdoor patio or attending a university-sponsored religions discussion. Some sit like Rae and some stand like Professor David. A reserved Nadia sits at a nearby table and talks with her college friend Yuan, a 20-something Chinese-born student. Some men, like the 70-something Jim, a pillar of the community, float around the patio with a glass of chardonnay in hand. The reserved Carlton is a 71-year-old widower whose wife Dorothy died of breast cancer nine months ago. On sunny days, a cancer survivor, Debra, dons a cap to hide her hair loss while she strokes paint across a canvas. Next to Debra is Katherine, a 40-something, single, political operative who works for the governor of North Carolina.

 

Then one fall Wednesday evening, all these characters strangely (coincidentally?) meet, converse, and warm their bodies from the patio fire pit. Some drink and some just talk. Some are kind and some are rude.

 

At least one person’s life is changed in a moment that Wednesday night.