Grabbing a seat at a table within the Wedge at Foundation taproom, Tim Schaller looked around the large industrial space, observing countless patrons sipping on beloved ales and taking in the sunshine radiating over the River Arts District in Asheville.
“You know, the original business plan called for just a little old man’s bar,” Schaller laughed. “And all we really did was open the doors and the people showed up.”
A managing partner for Wedge Brewing Co., the business now encompasses two locations in Asheville: its original spot at the Wedge Studios in the River Arts District and the Foundation just down the road. Coming to fruition in 2008, the Wedge is now a pillar of the city’s culture and a beehive for social interaction between locals and visitors alike.
“People come to Asheville to be near the countryside and also be in this urban setting,” Schaller said. “And what continually blows my mind is the proportion of incredible and interesting things [there are compared to] the population.”
Originally from Long Island, New York, Schaller was a carpenter who also had a health food store. Eventually by the mid-1990s, he found himself in Asheville, doing a workshop and taking in the scenery of Western North Carolina.
“Obviously, the beauty of the mountains has always been here. But, the architecture of the city is gorgeous, too,” Schaller recalled. “And when I came here, there were some great buildings for sale. So, I bought one and kept coming down to renovate it. I soon realized how much I liked working here, and I decided to live here.”
Back then, Schaller would meet up with his friends at Jack of the Wood, a longtime gathering spot for live music and libations in Downtown Asheville. And it was during another rendezvous with his cronies (in the self-proclaimed “Old Man’s Corner” of the pub) when Schaller found himself in a conversation about possibly opening up a craft brewery.
“This was in the mid-2000s, all before the big boom of craft beer in Asheville. We came up with the numbers and research of what it would take to actually open a brewery here,” Schaller said. “We had a brewmaster ready, and we found a building. At every point, we could have turned around, but we kept following this wild idea.”
By 2008, the Wedge Studios was unveiled within a massive building in the River Arts District. Shaped like a cheese wedge, the structure is home to dozens of local and regional artists, many of whom operate live studios. On any given weekend, the large back parking lot is filled with hundreds of cars, all browsing the works of art and enjoying a hearty Wedge ale.
“Where we are in the River Arts District, there’s something so real and beautiful about this area,” Schaller said. “Either you’re an artist or an art appreciator when you’re here. A big part of the revival of Asheville was due to the artists and art lovers in this district.”
In 2017, a second location was launched. Also situated in the River Arts District, the Wedge at Foundation is placed within a once-abandoned industrial corridor. Filled with mesmerizing graffiti, a popular skate park, and several local businesses, the property is also home to the nationally renowned barbecue joint 12 Bones.
“The Foundation is a very aesthetically pleasing place, and on so many different levels. And we do what we can to always support the skate park—it’s about paying it forward,” Schaller said. “There’s a lot of intrinsic value in transforming these once forgotten properties into something new, something for the community to come and enjoy.”
This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to request your free copy.