Wilkes County: An Alternative Perspective

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This morning, I had the displeasure of reading Richard Fausset's New York Times essay "Feeling Let Down and Left Behind, With Little Hope for Better." While Mr. Fausset does make some salient points with regard to the struggling economy in the area, he fails to highlight some of the positives occurring throughout the county. For example, he doesn't mention the growing vineyard industry, which statewide accounts for nearly 2 billion dollars. If he had taken a short drive to Ronda, NC, he would have experienced postcard-perfect Raffaldini Vineyards, a sprawling Tuscan-esque vineyard estate that rivals the glorious Tuscan exemplars of Banfi and Antinori. Or, if he didn't wish to leave the area of the Vape Shop, he could have just simply walked across the street into 6th and Main Restaurant, where he would have encountered southern charm and hospitality at its finest -- a restaurant that is redolent of what one would expect to find in Charleston or Savannah. In addition to this, just down the street from 6th and Main are Branciforte's, a fine dining Italian establishment -- Talia Espresso, a Mediterranean-themed coffee shop, Anchor Coffee -- started by young entrepreneurs about the age of Kody Foster -- and Elsewhere on 10th, a new farm-to-table establishment, which is capitalizing on the nationwide farm-to-table phenomenon. These are just some of the examples of positive development and entrepreneurial initiative undertaken by both locals and outsiders alike.

As an outsider myself, having lived abroad in Italy, I must confess that at times I have felt like the Alan Rickman character in the film Bottleshock, the Sacha Baron Cohen character in Talladega Nights, or one of the Japanese businessmen in the Michael Keaton starred film Gung Ho, but despite these cultural differences, I have come to love not only the vast, Romantic beauty of the area, but the people. Even though many are struggling financially, everywhere you go, you will meet a smiling face and a friend. People go out of their way to greet you, and to help you, in any way they can. The poet William Wordsworth noted this about the Lake District as compared to cosmopolitan London. He writes: "if we meet a face / We almost meet a friend." And to this point, when I return to Boca Raton, an area that is culturally an extension of fast-paced, competitive New York, I have to remind myself to cease smiling at strangers and greeting people, as is de rigueur for Wilkes County, and much of The South. Perhaps if Mr. Fausset spent a bit more time in the area, he would have experienced this sensibility as much as the economic despair that he details in his article.