Refinery 13 proudly proclaims itself as Marion’s craft beer pioneer. Now, this successful taproom can add the title of Marion’s Small Business of the Year for 2018.

During the annual meeting of the Marion Business Association, President Tracy Cotton announced Tuesday morning the latest recipient of this prestigious award. Some of the previous honorees include Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts, The McDowell News, Marion Pharmacy, Blue Ridge Chiropractic and Spencer’s Hardware.

In her presentation, Cotton talked about how co-owner Sarah Jacobs successfully completed the Growing Entrepreneurs Marion (GEM) program in March of 2017. That same month, Jacobs, her husband Ryan and her father Avery Barrier opened Refinery 13 at 13 N. Main St.

This is Marion’s first taproom offering the finest of North Carolina’s craft beer, hard cider and wine in a first-class and family-friendly setting like you would expect to find in a larger city. When it opened, Sarah Jacobs said she hoped her business would help bring Marion and McDowell County more into the craft beverage scene of western North Carolina, which is one of the best in the nation. Her business has accomplished all of that and so much more. Almost from the moment it opened, Refinery 13 helped spark a positive change in Marion.

“Her business has transformed our downtown area, by showing that businesses like taprooms and breweries can be successful, and having the first sidewalk café,” said Cotton.

Sarah and Ryan Jacobs also brought about the need for the malt beverage referendum. For years, Marion was under a restriction where the only places allowed to sell beer on-premises were hotels, motels and restaurants. When it first opened, Refinery 13 had to get around this HMR restriction by operating as a private club.

In December 2016, Sarah and Ryan Jacobs said they didn’t want their business to be a private club but rather have it as “all inclusive.” They asked the Marion City Council to call for a referendum on removing the HMR restrictions, adding neighboring towns and cities have done the same thing. Council agreed and the special referendum was held in November of last year.

The passage by a 3-to-1 margin “definitely indicated that Marion has turned the corner when it comes to alcohol regulation,” according to the MBA.

Since its opening, Refinery 13 has made downtown Marion more exciting. And other businesses such as Burrito Bros., Flavors on Main, Mica Town Brewing and the Big Orange Hoagie Factory have opened afterwards on what has become Marion’s popular North Block.

“Refinery 13 Trivia Night is legendary in Marion and is the place to be every Tuesday night,” said Cotton. “Trivia may reign on Tuesday evenings, but Sarah Jacobs has proved that her business is not trivial.”

The craft beer taproom hosts fund-raisers for worthy causes, tap takeovers, Pictionary and even a Bible study.

“Marion Business Association is proud to present the 2018 Marion Business of the Year to Sarah Jacobs and Refinery 13,” added Cotton.

Jacobs was surprised and speechless when the announcement was made at the Depot. She was surrounded by family and friends for the presentation, who were previously made aware that her business would be honored and were able to keep it a secret.

“I’m just so humbled and thankful for how Marion has welcomed our business and continued supporting it over the past year, as well as how supportive our city leaders have been to us,” she said afterwards. “I’m so proud to be a small part of our town’s growth, and can’t wait to see what our future holds in the revitalization of downtown Marion.”

During the annual meeting at the Depot, MBA Executive Director Freddie Killough reported that Marion had 28 new businesses open during the past year and 24 ribbon-cutting ceremonies took place.

“We had a very, very active year this past year,” said Killough.

She also talked about the success of the GEM program, which helps fledgling entrepreneurs like Sarah and Ryan Jacobs get off to a good start. During the past year, the GEM graduates made a total investment of $2 million in Marion and of that, $1.6 million was invested in the downtown.

Coming up later this year will be the opening of Taylor Bros. Brewing in the old Laughridge Furniture building on West Henderson Street and the Feisty Goldfish, a bar and retro arcade, in another former Laughridge Furniture building around the corner. Next door, Keeper’s Cut Meadery will soon start serving mead, a wine made from honey. This section of downtown Marion will probably become known as the Depot District.

Mountain Marquee, the new movie theater, is set to open on West Court Street. The 80-room Holiday Inn Express will be constructed on N.C. 226 South and this will be the anchor for that end of the city. A new building for Marion DDS dental practice is under construction on Rutherford Road, said Killough.

During the annual meeting, Killough announced the new slate of MBA officers for 2018-2019. They are Chris Allison with Rocket Sled Marketing as president; Boyd Phillips with Phillips Financial as vice president; Mike Rabb with Realty One as treasurer; and Tracy Cotton with Morrow Insurance as immediate past president.

At the Tuesday morning meeting, the members for the MBA board of directors were announced. They are Beth Davis (1st Citizen’s Bank), Tiffany Coates (The McDowell News), Wes Shelly (attorney), Samantha Allison (Marion Pharmacy), Lindsey Johnson (Mission Hospital McDowell), Mackenzie Holland (CarePartners Hospice), Rachel Withrow (Crooked Door Coffee House), Nancy Spencer (Spencer's Hardware), Michael Hollifield (West Court Food Center), Emily Causey (Mica Town Brewing), Susie Bowers (First Bank) and Rodney Jackson (Rodney Jackson CPA).

Cotton presented a plaque to outgoing board member Barbara Brown. Likewise, Allison gave Cotton a plaque recognizing her time as the MBA president.

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