Iredell County is a relatively quick hop up Interstate 77 from Charlotte, but for me the Queen City can at times seem many more miles away.Especially when I’m on a boat with friends on Lake Norman, walking the trail beside undisturbed wetlands near my Mooresville home, or driving to Lake Norman State Park in Troutman to paddle a canoe.Sure, signs of progress are all around, even up the hill from our home, where the thump, thump, thump of heavy equipment for a new I-77 interchange at Brawley School Road continues late into the night.Several miles to the south, at I-77 Exit 31, work on the massive, $2 billion Langtree at the Lake mixed-use community is under way. It’s the same exit where Lowe’s Companies Inc. has about 5,000 corporate employees at its national headquarters, with plans for 11,000 some day.Despite the economy, the county continues to attract employers, the latest being California-based Niagara Bottling in Mooresville Business Park off Mazeppa Road. I write a weekly column for the Observer called Red Dirt Alert, and such new construction is a perfect fit.But I also love how the county has retained its agricultural roots – it’s among the top counties in the state for the number of dairy and beef cows – and claims the famous little burg of Love Valley, where the only transportation allowed on its main street is the horse.I’ve admired how the county seat of Statesville has preserved its old neighborhoods that are now on the National Register of Historic Places.And how downtown Statesville and Mooresville have remained vibrant despite the decades-long onslaught of outlying retail centers. I love their restaurants, from the Black Angus on North Center Street in Statesville to Epic Chop House and J.J. Wasabi’s on Main Street in Mooresville. Businesses that give the downtowns a sense of place no mall could match include the more-than-century-old D.E. Turner & Co. Hardware store on North Main Street in Mooresville and the 1924 Mooresville Ice Cream Co. that debuted an ice cream parlor on North Broad Street on May 1 in a refurbished space it previously used for storage. On South Main Street, developer Michael Bay is transforming the old Mooresville Mills complex into a business hub, including one of his Merinos Home Furnishings outlets. Bay is learning the Old World craft of brick-oven pizza-making in Italy this summer so he can open a brick-oven pizzeria in the complex this fall. As for transformations, Mooresville is known as Race City USA for having shed its mill village past in favor of all things motorsports. I’m a lifelong fan of racing and enjoy driving past the NASCAR shops and North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Lakeside Business Park on my way to work each day. But of everything I’ve come to admire about living in Iredell County, nothing beats the people – many of whom have come from elsewhere across the country and world and now, like me, are proud to call this home.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
Growth aside, true to its roots
‘Must’ list 1. Lake Norman State Park (159 Inland Sea Lane in Troutman) boasts fishing, boating, hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, interpretive programs, campgrounds and a swimming area with lifeguards. 704-528-6350; www.ncparks.gov. 2. The northern Iredell town of Love Valley, in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains, replicates an Old West setting with its dirt main road, horse-hitching rails, country store, tack shop, gift shop, hardware store and winding trails for leisurely horseback riding. www.townoflovevalley.com. 3. Set in a refurbished 1880s building in Mooresville, Epic Chop House’s menu features Chicago chop house-style and Southern offerings. 104 S. Main St. 704-230-1720; www.epicchophouse.com. 4. Radio Flyer toys are the biggest seller at D.E Turner & Co. Hardware (111 N. Main St.), which opened in 1946 in Mooresville and sells everything from cast ironware to wood buckets for hand-cranked ice cream. 704-664-5145.
Joe covers Mooresville and other areas of Lake Norman for the Observer.
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