If you’re wondering how to best strike the right balance of retail and office space in quaint downtown Pinehurst, look no further than the newly renovated former BB&T bank building.
The historic property on Chinquapin Road is well-situated at the busiest corner of the shopping district near Tufts Park. Built in 1921, the original exterior was crusted marble overlaid with stucco and the building’s first occupant, the Bank of Pinehurst, was lauded for its “vault that could not be robbed.”
Commercial real estate broker George Manley said the vault is the kind of unique architectural feature that should be celebrated rather than hidden away. So when he and his business partners acquired the vacant property in February 2020, they decided to showcase the vault along with the building’s original windows and mouldings, and some original tile flooring. “The building, as they say, had good bones. We had a vision of trying to create something to add to the village. There has been a drive to create more retail and food that will add quality to the village and its residents,” Manley said. “With this building, we didn’t want to fight that drive, we wanted to cultivate it.”
That process meant finding the right mix of tenants which Manley believes they have achieved. The upstairs former law offices are now occupied by a military defense contractor. The building’s renovated basement — a cool, serene space — is occupied by Scott Hasemeier of Form V Chocolates. The main floor is being readied to open by early July as Agora, a French bistro-style space specializing in macarons, fresh breads, coffee service, fine wines and bourbons. The outdoor patio will be expanded for additional al fresco seating and, according to plans, live music.
Agora is the brainchild of David and Ginny Tran. The couple relocated to Pinehurst late last year when he assumed the chief marketing officer role at Classical Conversations. Their business partners include Robert and April Bortins. “Agora means gathering place and that is how we envision it,” Tran said, anticipating that 60 percent of their baked goods will be their own and the rest of their inventory will come from other local bakers. “We want to focus on mom-entrepreneurs who can come in and use our commercial kitchen.”
The Trans have four children, all under the age of six, and have operated several other businesses, including Iris Coffee Lab in Raleigh. As a result, David said they understand the challenges that a start-up baker may face. “Our concept is “what would a mom want?” Tran said, adding that the cafe will eventually have a full menu for breakfast and lunch with a focus on clean eating, and very little fried foods. “This is a great community where people can come and slow down and build relationships with each other.” Downstairs in the basement, Scott Hasemeier of Form V Chocolates prepares exquisite hand-crafted and hand-painted artisan chocolate bars and boutique style bon bons. Scott Hasemeier from Form V Chocolates has located his business in the lower level of the renovated bank building in old town Pinehurst. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot Classically trained in French cuisine, Hasemeier started Form V out of his own kitchen. He sells his wares at various outlets around Moore County, including Pinescones and Twigg & Co. But as business picked up, he needed more elbow room and moved into the renovated bank building around Valentine’s Day.
He describes the various colored cocoa butters he works with as his “crayon box” and uses a glass-walled prep space where the temperature and humidity can be methodically controlled. Hasemeier also is developing a small retail area downstairs and will soon begin teaching chocolatier classes for children and adults. A "tablet" chocolate bar from Form V Chocolates. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot “People have told me when they see the chocolates that they’ll buy two. One to look at and one to eat,” he said with a laugh.
You can purchase Form V Chocolates online at formvchocolates.com
Manley said he’s delighted by the collaborative spirit for entrepreneurship from the Trans and the passion and enthusiasm of Hasemeier.
“It is refreshing and genuine. I’ve gotten the most of that so far,” he said. “Here we took an old bank and an idea to renovate and restore it, and they have run with it.”
Author: Laura Douglass
The Pilot Newspaper