Something on tap across from Zack’s in one of downtown’s oldest buildings

When Brandon Martin looks at photographs of downtown Burlington taken in the early 1960s he likes how busy it appears. It was the hot spot in town for retail shopping and commerce. It was a hub for social life. He thinks it could be that way again.

“If you look back at photos from the 1960s that area of downtown was vibrant and thriving,” Martin says. “When Holly Hill Mall came that was step one in the collapse. Now you see downtowns like Durham that have made comebacks. Mebane, even though it’s smaller, has come back and Graham is doing fantastic. So in looking at what’s going on in Burlington, I wanted to be a part of it.”

Martin is among the latest investors in downtown property, taking over one of the more visible and deteriorated buildings, the two-story structure at the corner of Davis and Worth streets.  The building at 135 W. Davis St. was most recently a Subway sandwich store — but recently is an overstatement. It was a long time ago. The structure — beside the Downtown Barber Shop on Davis Street and directly across from Zack’s on Worth Street — had become one of the symbols of decay in downtown. It has been vacant for years and in decline, damaged to the point where it was impacting the barber shop beside it.


That is changing.

Martin, owner of Epic Construction in Burlington, plans to renovate the site. The first floor will be occupied by the Davis Street Tap House. The second floor will be a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. Martin is developing both projects. The Davis Street Tap House will be similar in concept to the Pour Taproom in Durham and sites in Greensboro and Charlotte. I wrote about it after a visit to Durham for a food tour there a couple of years ago. The sites feature craft beer taps and wine taps and customers can sample the selections by helping themselves and pay by the ounce as they leave. Read an explanation for how it works here. It’s a fun way to try new beers and wines without being stuck with 12 ounces of a brew a customer doesn’t want.

Davis street

Martin originally planned to put in a restaurant and wine bar. But the building is only 1,400 square feet on each floor, which limited his options. He also noted that several restaurants may be opening downtown in the next several months, including the new Burlington Food Hall on Front Street.

“With all the restaurants coming in we didn’t want be competition but a complement to them,” Martin says. “So we nixed the restaurant.”

According to the Davis Street Tap House website, the building is one of the oldest still standing in downtown. If that’s incorrect, I’m sure my friend and city historian Walter Boyd will set me straight (UPDATE, and he did). According to the website, “The building was built by Burlington’s second Mayor Christopher Columbus “Lum” Townsend in 1886” as a farm implements store. The second  floor housed meetings of the city’s Board of Aldermen when Townsend was elected mayor.

Martin acknowledges that the building needs a lot of work. The engineering and design plans are being competed and Martin hopes to have the Davis Street Tap House open by late summer or early fall. When that part of the renovation is complete, the second floor work will begin. Epic Construction has specialized in building storage facilities and custom homes. The renovations will have to meet certain standards because it’s in Burlington’s Historic District.

“The building was in awful shape. We went all the way back to the shell. We completely gutted it,” Martin says.

Martin says this venture is only the beginning. He’s looking to purchase and develop other downtown properties. There has been movement in downtown in recent months. The Brothers Vintage Toys and Games store opened on the same block of Davis Street in October 2019. Last week it was announced that Casey and Emily Lewis, owners of Owl and Rabbit Gallery on Front Street, purchased three buildings on Spring Street. One would house Owl and Rabbit Gallery, another would be a bakery and the third is the site for the Company Shops Nighttime Cafe.

“I like downtown, the vibe. I see what it can be,” he says. “I do feel that downtown Burlington is on the comeback, if everybody can weather the storm.”

The Davis Street Tap House also has a Facebook page.

Find more posts about downtown Burlington here.


8 thoughts on “Something on tap across from Zack’s in one of downtown’s oldest buildings

  1. Yep. Holly Hill Mall…1969. I was three. I remember my dad talking about it. Everything shifted. It was the latest and greatest. Not only was it the beginning of the downtown decline, it also heralded the shift of interest from east to west. East Burlington never recovered. Downtown & Cum-Park Plaza had been the places to be. West Burlington was largely rural. I may have already told you this but, where Twin Lakes is…that was my mother’s people’s property…the Oakleys, though my grandmother married a Griswold from Chatham Co. The Hwy. 70 entrance…that road split my great uncle Jack Oakley’s property. To the right of the entrance was my great Aunt Minnie’s property (house removed) and to the right of that, my grandmother’s (house removed). You might can still see the old driveway. To the right of that is a field/garden and the house to the right of that (if still there) belonged to Bill & Ruby Williams, long time friends and neighbors to my grandmother. Most of the Twin Lakes property was all Oakleys…grandmother’s cousins, aunts, uncles… I dislike driving by, now. I grew up on that farmland.

    You know the background of Cum-Park?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cum-Park was before Holly Hill. The TN had a story at one of the anniversaries a few years ago. I’ll see if it’s still online. Lots of their content has been lost in ownership changes.


      • I was born in ’66 so, much of its early heyday happened before I showed up or I was too young to remember. I grew up riding my bike to it, up Sellars Mill from Wilkins. Spent a lot of time in Mayberry & Roses. Shopped with my mother in Sellars & the remnant shop. The slot cars & Biff Burger were before my time…or memory. My first job was at the Wendy’s, built out in the parking lot.

        I vaguely recall the parachuting Santa incident. My paternal grandfather was a FF. My paternal grandparents lived a block & a half away from FDHQ. There was a time when you drove OVER the railroad at Fisher Street, not under it. That was when they straightened out Webb Ave’s bow (NC 100) and tore down the old bowling alley.

        Wally Snyder married my parents.

        My mother worked for Western Electric for years, then later, for the County of Alamance as a draftsman/mapper and an assistant in tax collections. She knew about road projects and developments years in advance.

        I never knew Hugh Cummings but, heard the stories of his local power & dealings…much of that gleaned through my grandmother whom was heavy into Democrat politics. Many were not flattering. And, I have NO kind words for Carl Parks.

        As an addendum to the shiny TN story (Paul Harvey clearing his throat)…Chris Parks was a drug addict at one time and his older sister is deceased…Meredith Parks Joyner. They were both adopted by Carl & Dorothy as Dorothy couldn’t have children. She was a nervous critter and didn’t handle the struggles of life very well. Carl ruled that house.

        Meredith married an Al Joyner. He was some kind of academic type. Goofy fellow. They lived in a house that daddy Carl owned on Graham-Hopedale Road, just past the fire station, heading towards Hopedale. I don’t remember how they met but, my parents used to run around with Meredith & Al…middle to late 70s. According to my father, there was some attempted spousal swapping going on. Then, the fighting started. My parents split in 1978 & divorced in 1979. Naturally, Meredith & Al split. After that, things got worse.

        Meredith was a kind, sad woman. She was very good to me and, for some reason, took a particular interest in me. I can remember sleeping in the backseat of a car with my head on her lap, on the way to the beach. Al was very nice to me, too. He was funny. After their split, I never saw him, again.

        My father and Meredith somewhat took up with each other, enraging my mother. But, cracks started to show. At some point, Meredith wanted my father to marry her but, having just divorced, he wanted some freedom (my mother is a difficult woman to know & live with). Things spiralled out of control.

        My father was in LE, as was his younger brother (I’m quite sure you know who Randy Jones is…Terry Johnson’s mouthpiece for the cameras) and he always made sure the women in his life had a weapon for defense. My mother carried. I carry and he gave one to Meredith.

        I was not there when it happened. My father told me the story in my early 20s but, I’ve lost many details over the decades. He and Meredith were discussing their situation and she was distraught over his wanting to see other women. All I remember, now, is, he arose from the couch to change a record, his back to her and, the gun he gave her went off.

        The story was that, the angle of the entry wound showed that it was self-inflicted, either accidentally or intentionally (no one knows). It was an odd angle and the coroner surmised that she was holding (the revolver) against her stomach, looking down into the barrel. She died a few hours later in the ER (County Hospital @ Vaughn & G-H & Eastlawn, as I recall).

        The fallout was automatic. I don’t remember if Cummings participated but, Carl Parks tried his best to have my father charged with murder. Dorothy, already delicate, fell apart. I think Chris had a public meltdown.

        Ultimately, the coroner’s report exonerated my father. Plus, any GSR was minimal towards him. He’s no saint but, he certainly isn’t a murderer. Carl Parks still pushed, using his contacts but, ran into my grandmother’s political base. It was a tense time for my family. My grandmother knew Dorothy and called her “nuts”. Honestly, I think both of her kids were emotionally unstable.

        Not long after that, my father quit his state job (Probation/Parole) and kinda caved in on himself…drank heavily. He was pretty messed up for a few years. He’d had an ongoing battle with a bad supervisor, and the state, and her death left him with little desire to fight back. I was a teen by then & saw very little of him.

        It was common knowledge that Cummings & Parks were a power duo with questionable tactics & motives.


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