Asheville’s popular The Whale bottle shop and bar signs lease in Greenville’s West End

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Jesse Van Note and Andrew Ross are opening the second location of Asheville's The Whale bottle shop and bar in Greenville's West End. Photo by Will Crooks/ Upstate Business Journal.

The co-owners of craft beer and wine bar The Whale in Asheville, Andrew Ross and Jesse Van Note, are quintessential Ashevillians: They both previously worked at Wicked Weed Brewing for years; Ross sports below-waist dreadlocks; Van Note is decorated in colorful ink, even on his scalp, and he plays bass in a heavy metal band.

But one drive through the Village of West Greenville sold Van Note on bringing their craft-beer collective to the Greenville market. After a months-long hunt for the right location, The Whale GVL has signed a lease for a 2,400-square-foot space at 1108 S. Main St. in The Greene Apartments near Fluor Field.

John Odom and Rakan Draz of Avison Young represented The Whale, and Nick Navarro of NRE Property Group represented the landlord, South Main Street Apartments, in the transaction.

With construction on track to start early first quarter of 2019, The Whale GVL bottle shop and bar should open in early summer 2019 with 20 draft beers, 200 bottles, wine, saki, mead, and charcuterie and sandwiches.

Ross and Van Note opened The Whale (“whale” is craft-beer jargon for sought-after and hard-to-find craft beers) in West Asheville behind Haywood Common almost exactly a year ago to bring the locals those difficult-to-source and unique beers, giving them an option instead of the local breweries that have already saturated the market.

“American beer has gotten very hyper local, which I think is a good thing because it ensures freshness and accessibility to fresh product, but a lot of that comes with the forgetting of the historical influence, and that’s something we’re very conscious of and something we try to bring into the forum,” Ross says. “Schneider Weisse has been making the best hefeweizen for 400 years, and there’s a reason that’s still relevant.”

Their rustic, laid-back bar and knowledgeable staff became an immediate success, especially with brewers and service-industry staff who craved a new option.

“It’s also about the knowledge behind the beer, the ability to have someone approach the bar and say ‘this is what I like’ and this is what we have,” Ross says. “It’s just as informative and educational as it is leisurely and drinkable.”

But they didn’t imagine they’d announce a second location so soon. Finding the right space convinced them the timing was right.

The new location will be a polar opposite aesthetic from Asheville’s darker, more tavern-like space. It’s new construction with soaring ceilings and windows, but without a corporate feel. And with that, Ross and Van Note are planning for The Whale GVL to have its own identity relating to Greenville and not be a copy-and-paste of the original. It will have a high-end feel without pretense.

Van Note has spent time in Greenville over the last five years, playing with his band Bask at Radio Room, buying his jeans from local custom denim designer Billiam, and his wife’s best friend lives here. Because of that, he and his wife, Lia, plan to move somewhere between the two locations, and she will run the Greenville store.

The goal here, just as it was in Asheville a year ago, is to step out of the current wave of local brews in Greenville that are getting wide exposure and, not at all in opposition to the new breweries, promote beer for its history.

“It’s such a historic liquid, that I feel like when you try and put it in a cage too much you’re not paying respect to it, and I think [our] goal is to pay respect to the history of it and the education behind it,” Van Note says. “We tell a story with almost every beer we pour because there’s a story behind every brewery, there’s a story behind every beer. I think it’s something that’s super fascinating because of the historical relevance of the liquid.”

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