The Upstate Renaissance

Mmmm . . . Beer! Made in Spartanburg. Drive up and have a pint. (Photo/Tom Poland)

Make the 90-mile journey to West Main Street in Spartanburg and you’ll find an engaging art collection, a savory restaurant, unique bookstore and exceptional microbrewery.

A tree-lined thoroughfare spirits you into the city’s downtown district. Parking is free. And the aforementioned attractions line the same side of the street. Here’s a great opportunity to appreciate the Johnson Collection at 154 West Main. Lynne Blackman, Public Relations coordinator, describes the gallery as “a presence, not a place.” The collection consists of more than 1,000 pieces. “The collection is all fine art of the American South,” said Blackman. You can see the work of native southerners, itinerant artists, Charleston Renaissance artists and others here. “Looking back, it was always the sense of place that drew George and me to beautiful pictures — pictures that capture not only the glorious landscape of the South, but that also enliven its unique culture and dynamic history,” said Susu Johnson. TJC, as it’s known, focuses on African-American and female artists.

At 186 West Main you’ll find the Hub City Bookshop, a revolutionary independent bookstore. Each book purchased nourishes new writers and helps launch authors into the literary world. The store shares the ground floor of the landmark Masonic Temple with Little River Coffee Bar and Cakehead Bakeshop. Executive Director Betsy Teter oversees this vital literary center. She considers the store “an indie store for serious readers,” specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. The shop does not carry romance, how-to, or travel, but along with Hub City Press titles, stocks a sampling of everything else, including children’s/YA, sports, humor, poetry, mystery, food and sci-fi. It also has sections for used books and “the best of independent presses.”

Enjoy lunch at 226 B West Main Street. That’s where Cribbs Kitchen serves up great burgers, salads, wraps, pesto crusted trout and more. Appetizers include tempura shrimp skewers, pork and collard green egg rolls, and buttermilk fried calamari. The Classic Burger is as good as you’ll get. The menu has entrees sure to please all.

At 226 A West Main Street you’ll smell the sweet fragrance of beer brewing. Solar-powered R.J. Rockers Brewing Company became Spartanburg’s first brewery in 1997. Owner and brewer Mark Johnsen set out on a mission to provide the Upstate with the best micro-brewed beer people ever tasted. Following his service in the 1991 Gulf War, Mark was stationed in Germany, where he learned as much as possible about brewing from the experts. The good folks at R.J. Rockers believe their beer makes the world a better place. They invite people to the brewery Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Join them for a pint.

Stroll Spartanburg’s West Main and you can satisfy your soul’s craving for art and good books and good food and beer. Just a 90-mile drive and well worth it.

If You Go …

• The Johnson Collection, 154 West Main, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Always open third Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. for Spartanburg’s Art Walk. No fee.

 • Hub City Bookshop 864-577-9349,

 • Cribbs Kitchen, 864-699-9669: Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 • R.J. Rockers, 864-585-BEER (2337),

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected].

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]