HARTSVILLE – Wild Heart Brewing Company brings a new and different dining experience to Hartsville. The newest downtown Hartsville establishment is nostalgic, innovative and fun with a creative use for revitalizing a former feed and seed store.
The brewery/restaurant opened April 14 in the old Gardner’s Fertilizer & Farm Supply building on Railroad Avenue.
Casey Hancock and Zach Riner are cofounders of the microbrewery/restaurant. Tasha Winburn is the general manager, and Ryland Culbertson is the chef and culinary director.
“Our vision for Wild Heart, born from Zach’s seeds of inspiration in 2016, was made real only with the help of our ‘rockstar’ team,” Hancock said.
Hancock and Riner said the concept started with them sitting down to have a beer at Vintage with a close friend — a physician who lives and works in Hartsville.
“We asked him to come to talk about what we wanted to do, as we thought he might be interested in being a part of Wild Heart,” Hancock said. “He signed up.”
They said he convinced three other physicians to buy into the vision. All of those early investors are now owners of Wild Heart Brewing who live and work in Hartsville with their families.
The men said they are fortunate to have Culbertson, a friend of one of the owners, join as chef and culinary director.
“Without Ryland, we’d probably only be serving hot dogs,” they agreed. “They’d have been really good hot dogs, but they would have paled in comparison to what Ryland built. Ryland designed our kitchen and menu from scratch, and the result is truly amazing. Ryland’s expertise and passion took our food program far beyond what we could have imagined. His menus are stacked with delicious food from top to bottom, and our food is made with real, natural, whole, fresh, honest ingredients. Approximately 98 percent of our food is made fresh in-house. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it, because you can see and taste that commitment on every plate.”
Jessie Avant Smith, who opened The Midnight Rooster almost 20 years ago in downtown Hartsville and is now a practicing artist in Charlotte, came back down to craft the interior design.
“She and Zach’s wife, Rachel, spent months working on design details that breathed life and spirit into the space,” Hancock said.
One wall pays tribute to the building’s roots with a display of old tools such as hammers, pitchfork, hoe, drills, wrenches, hand saws and shears, which might have been sold in the original business.
According to Hancock and Riner, the final piece of the puzzle was finding a general manager who was a perfect fit.
“We were able to connect with Tasha Winburn earlier in 2021 and were so fortunate to have her come on board,” Hancock said. “Tasha whipped us into shape and pushed Wild Heart across the finish line to open on April 14. Without Tasha, even today, we wouldn’t be open yet.
“Aside from her expertise, Tasha’s passion for an excellent guest experience and inspiring work environment meshed perfectly with what we all wanted to accomplish. Through these first few weeks, Tasha continues to hold this place together, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Hancock and Riner said there are dozens of others that were vital to building Wild Heart Brewing Company. To each of them, they said they are thankful.
“Not only is having a team of passionate people the only way to build something truly great, but we wouldn’t want to do it any other way,” Riner said.
The staff numbers about 40 full and part-time employees.
With all of the pieces in place, they are happy with how their new establishment has turned out.
“We are really proud of what we, as a team, have been able to do, and how well it has been received,” Hancock said.
Some customer favorites are already emerging. Of the nine beers currently on tap, best sellers include H&H Lager, Blue North Blueberry Blonde Ale and Namesake Hazy IPA.
On the menu, pizzas are a big hit. The Centennial. topped with pepperoni, Weinberg sausage, peppered bacon, cheese, sauce and a drizzle of honey, is the frontrunner in sales. The Mr. Mayor Smash Burger is made of ground short rib and brisket with hickory-smoked sharp cheddar cheese, grilled onions and garlic aioli on a Griggs Circle Bakery roll and is a popular choice with customers.
Hancock said they wanted to create a place for the community to gather, not just to eat, but a place where all types of people can come and spend time.
There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, some of which they are in the process of weatherizing. A grassy area taking shape under the old black walnut and chinaberry trees is the perfect place for activities such as cornhole.
Hours are 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.