Five years ago over a Christmas holiday my friend introduced me to a place that helped change the nighttime landscape of a city and welcomed love, laughter, hopes and dreams to the hearts and souls of those who walked through its doors.
My best college girlfriend, Liz, came home for the holiday and we got together as always to catch up on all things. But this time she was insistent that we go to a new restaurant in Corbin that had just opened up. She told me her friend from high school opened the restaurant and it was progressive for Corbin.
She was dying to see it. I was skeptical.
Liz was always braver, smarter and more outgoing than I was, so I knew this was probably out of my comfort zone.
She took me to a place on Main Street. We only stayed a minute that night, she catching up with her high school friends and me, well I just tried to understand where exactly I was. It was different, unique.
Five years later, The Wrigley Taproom and Eatery or as the locals call it, “The Wrigley” feels like home. It’s the home of my quick lunch bites with girls I’ve been missing, the spot of birthday gatherings with best friends, the absolute best brunch stop and occasional date night getaway.
Truly, The Wrigley helped pave the way for Corbin’s thriving Main Street. Or as Co-Owner Kristin Smith likes to call it the “new generation” Main Street.
Smith said throughout the rehabilitation of the old Dawahares building she can’t remember a single person who entered the building telling her that the farm-to table restaurant and brewery would make it. But five years later, it remains, thrives and is the home of trivia nights, birthday parties, engagements, fundraisers, live bands, a mug club and even a wedding.
Over the years the establishment has changed with the wants and needs of its patrons. Smith said they thought they’d be a brewery but that’s not what community members wanted so they adapted. They got their start by only opening three days a week, that grew to six, to then opening for lunch and now they serve up a Saturday brunch. Smith said opening on Sundays is even being considered.
She credits her neighbors on Main Street for their endurance and sustainability making The Wrigley’s arrival even possible. Smith said if it wasn’t for restaurants like Seasons and The Depot she's not sure The Wrigley's success would have been possible.
The Wrigley’s mission is focused around community, through both nutritional food, conversation and an offered space for fellowship.
Smith, who I’ve gotten to know over the years, in food and friendship said she’s both in the business of selling food and drinks and also of providing a safe space for all community members.
The success of The Wrigley is more than Smith dreamed or envisioned.
Events such as the Cornbread Convocation are moments of magic that she couldn’t have dreamed of, crediting community members near a far.
Guests continually show up with their own shared experiences to a growing Main Street in southeastern Kentucky, for The Wrigley, driving from Lexington, Somerset and Middlesboro to dine and be entertained.
Smith said she never takes for granted that people are choosing The Wrigley for their comfort and their celebrations. In fact she calls it a privilege to be a part of the community in that way, adding that in the five years she’s had the opportunity to see a little bit of it all, the good and the bad. She’s watching children grow up, grief, celebrations, laughter and dreams all come and go through the door.
From the day they took their first dollar on November 24, 2014, Smith has worn many hats and those hats still continue to change but she’s not going anywhere any time soon.
The ever expanding and changing Wrigley now offers catering, private events and bourbon tastings. To celebrate their success a weekend of festivities is planned for Friday, January 17, and Saturday, January 18. A fun menu will be offered as well as discounted bourbon flights and many other specials.
Smith said the success of The Wrigley would not have been possible without the community’s tremendous love expressed over the past five years.