BearWaters Brewing Company_NCIF Loan
Location: Canton, North Carolina 
Years in Business: > 5 years
NCIFund Role: Loan for real estate acquisition
Sector: Craft beer brewing
Impact: Job creation, downtown revitalization, sustainability
Jobs created: 5 new jobs since opening

Kevin and Melanie Sandefur originally opened BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville, North Carolina, in 2012. After four successful years of operation, they knew they needed to expand; they set their sights on 101 Park Street in Canton, a historic building directly across from the town’s active paper mill.

The location was a perfect fit. The brewery would breathe life into Canton’s struggling downtown, and the building was in an ideal location along the Pigeon River. And then there’s the water quality in the area, which is second to none. "Water is everything,” says Kevin. “Beer Is 95 percent water, so the better the quality of the water, the better the end result. The secret is out that Western North Carolina has some really great water quality, and that's why you see a lot of major national breweries coming to capitalize on that natural resource.”

The Opportunity

The Sandefurs brought in a new business partner, Art O’Neill, and with their combined business management history, brewing experience, and already-impressive standing in the local brewing community, they were ready to make the move. They even had enthusiastic support from town and county officials, who saw the lift the brewery could bring to the local economy. All they needed were the funds to acquire the building and make their relocation plans a reality. NCIFund lent them the capital they needed.

"When we were able to finally connect with NCIFund, and understand that they were willing to take a chance with us, and loan us the money needed to take our idea to the next level, it was incredibly exciting,” said Art.

Aside from their strong business acumen, BearWaters was also a match for NCIFund’s commitment to the environment and sustainability. The brewery uses solar-generated hot water, a rainwater collection system, and the business has built a river access point right outside the brewery for the public to enjoy. Most recently, they’ve added manufacturing to their list of accomplishments, and are producing a unique 8-pack of cans for local retail, using 100 percent recycled material, with each beer linked to a local environmental preservation cause.


Since re-opening in Canton in Spring 2017, BearWaters Brewing Company has become a lynchpin of Canton’s downtown revitalization, contributing to the local retail and manufacturing economy. The brewery has become an important community gathering place and demonstrates triple-bottom-line practices:  creating jobs and economic growth, “greening” their business, supporting local conservation efforts, all while delivering an excellent product.  

BearWaters Brewing Company Canton North Carolina Zhivko Illeieff 04 150We want to be about educating people on how to protect the watershed, why water quality is important and why we as a community have to protect our surroundings and do all we can to keep our rivers clean. The more we know about water and how important it is, the greater the chances are that this community can sustain itself year after year.
                                     - Art O'Neill, co-owner, BearWaters Brewing


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Visit the BearWaters Brewing website