“We’re Here to Stay” has become a rallying cry for YesterYears, the small brewery and friendly neighborhood taproom nestled between local landmarks Cat’s Cradle and the Artscenter.
“We’ve hashtagged ourselves #yyheretostay,” said David Larsen, founder and owner of YesterYears Brewery & Taproom. “We’ve made that commitment. One way or another, we’re going to be at the location where we are.”
The hashtag and the campaign around it stems from a groundswell of local support for the brewery after a time of intense hardship. Originally founded by Larsen and his son Bill, YesterYears seemed to be taking its place among the ever-expanding North Carolina craft beer scene as both a brewery and local watering hole. After tragedy struck in late 2016, things weren’t the same.
“In November of 2016, David’s son Bill took his own life,” reads the YouCaring page begun by Katie Stember. “David took a leave of absence from the brewery to grieve for his son away from the place where they last saw each other … Without David’s presence, inspiration, and commitment to craft brewing, YesterYears has fallen behind on production, sales, and business development, including a plan to roll out its own canned beer.”
David returned to the brewery full-time in January, but the cold and slow winter months paired with the absence of the taproom’s life and light had left YesterYears too far into the red. Now that Larsen is back, things are improving, and a local movement has begun to not only save the brewery financially but to let Larsen know that the family he has in Chapel Hill and Carrboro is here for him.
“I’ve had people from all the way from Wilmington, Charlotte, Greensboro, Saxapahaw, just coming in and saying ‘we’re with you, we understand what you’re going through’,” said Larsen. “They might just have a beer or two, but they want to come personally and tell me that they’re with us.”
The owner of the property YesterYears leases, Main Street Properties, has been working with Larsen on back rent, going so far as to “cut the rent in half to help us out,” according to Larsen. Investors are also starting to get involved in YesterYears, and plans for canning and distribution that were once far-off are now beginning to come to fruition.
“It’s amazing. Katie [Stember] who sort of rounded the group up, has been totally amazing,” said Larsen. “That’s the thing about it, one of my neighbors said they wanted to pay half of my half of the rent for one month … It’s unbelievable, the community support. Even from other brewers, calling and texting me saying ‘let us know what you need’.”
YesterYears began as a throwback-themed establishment with the slogan “Great Beer, Great Friends, Great Memories.” Larsen’s original idea of “a place for people to come, drink some awesome beer, and be together” and follow-through on community engagement and positivity through extensive involvement in local charities such as Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, the Abundance Foundation, and more has not only made him friends and future customers, but a new extended family.
“A new word we’re using is ‘community’,” said Larsen. “We’ve always had it, but now we’re really focused on recognizing it … We want to be as involved as we can.”
“I’m proudest of the group of people we have, the regulars,” said Larsen. “We’re very young in the city, we’re two years almost, and it’s amazing how many people … have said that we’re there, this is our home, this is where we want to be … I’m just proud that people have accepted us and have said ‘hey, you may be the new kid on the block, but you’re part of the family.’ That’s the cool thing about Carrboro and Chapel Hill.”