By Sarah Richardson
Greenbrier County residents know where to go when they want a drink, and that’s The Loft in Fairlea. A staple to the area, Chuck and Lori McClung have owned and operated the store from its current location since 1991, and their sister store, Lewisburg Spirits and Wine, for the last 10 years.
They know a thing or two about the beverage business, but so does their daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband of seven years, Tommy, who have both worked at the family store in years past.
After 30 years of operations, Chuck and Lori have decided to “pass the torch” to the next generation and retire, leaving the family business in Elizabeth and Tommy’s capable hands.
“It’s really been a serious conversation for the last year or so,” said Elizabeth, “It’s really special to be able to keep it in the family and for us to continue the business they started 30 years ago.”
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for Elizabeth and Tommy,” added Chuck, “we’ve enjoyed our time here, and I think we’ve served the public and our patrons quite well. Now it’s time for Tommy and Elizabeth.”
The McClungs were local business owners even before operating as a liquor store, and have lived in the area for nearly 35 years. It was 1985 when they purchased the site currently housing The Loft, but before that, it was a gas station and convenience store.
Liquor sales used to be regulated through state-operated stores under the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration; however, legislation was passed in 1990 discontinuing the retail sale of alcoholic beverages by the State. From this legislation bidding on liquor store licenses was opened for each region. The McClungs put in a blind, competitive bid for Lewisburg’s license, and won.
Since reopening as a liquor store in April of 1991, they have served the area with first one, and now two outlets.
“It was certainly crazy to start with,” said Chuck. “We combined the Ronceverte ABC store and Lewisburg ABC store into one, which originally was the old downtown ABC store. It was right across from City National Bank below the VFW location. We operated out of there while The Loft was being built in 1990. We actually took over in October of 1990, and moved into our current location in April of 1991, but we have been on this site since April of 1985.”
Throughout the years, Chuck and Lori have seen Lewisburg evolve into the destination it is today. “It’s changed a lot,” said Lori, “you would go through Lewisburg 20 years ago and not see anybody on the streets.”
“Just to see the changes Lewisburg has gone through in this time is incredible,” Chuck added.
He said that the past 30 years “have been a blast,” and that Tommy and Elizabeth are bringing a lot of new ideas to the table. One thing they plan to continue doing is supporting the community, including Carnegie Hall, the Lions Club, Greenbrier Valley Theatre, and other city groups.
“We get the opportunity to meet and work with other local business owners at the bars and restaurants, we all work together,” said Elizabeth.
Tommy added, “It’s a good business to really be part of the community.”
The couple plans to continue working at both stores, which boast an impressive variety of wine, liquor, beer, and more. “It would be fair to say we have one of the widest craft beer selections in the area,” said Tommy.
The couple encourages everyone to come in and say hi, both to them and their golden retriever, June, who frequently joins them at work.
Follow The Loft on Facebook at “The Loft and Spirits & Wine” for updates. “We have new and exciting things going on there, where I think adds value for our customers,” said Tommy.
Before it was The Loft, Chuck and Lori operated a gas station and convenience store on the site.
Chuck and Lori (right) are passing the torch to Tommy and Elizabeth (left) to run the family business.