New merchants in downtown Gastonia continue to grow


Some new business owners in downtown Gastonia say owning a business is not for the faint of heart.

But they still believe that seeing their hard work is worth it.


Jacob Hibberts opens his long-awaited premium whiskey and cigar lounge, WhiskGuysin February.

The lounge is located along the main avenue of Gastonia, next to the Rotary pavilion.

“Have a Business is definitely not for the faint of heart, but we love building relationships with downtown businesses and growing our memberships,” Hibberts said.

The Hibberts Lounge features ’40s and ’50s-themed leather sofas and chairs, a 3,000-square-foot cocktail area, and a full bar with a 36-foot granite bar.

Charcuterie boards, a full dessert menu and shrimp cocktails are served to guests.

Hibberts has seen his company attract over 2,000 members through the salon’s special membership programs.

“It’s a lot of man-hours, capital and logistics, but it’s nice to see it all paying off,” Hibberts said. “The members really appreciate everything.”

Hibberts thinks the presence of WhiskGars in the FUSE district works in his favor.

“All the downtown businesses are seeing the FUSE neighborhood booming and doing well, so we’re all feeding off each other,” Hibberts said. “I think more retail and a high-end grocery store would really help growth.”

Hibberts encourages new business owners to make sure they plan their ideas well before they start.

“Make sure you’re prepared and make sure your business is locally appropriate,” Hibberts said.

He calls his experience of having his own business downtown a “dream come true.”

He plans to have a grand opening for WhiskGuys between June 10 and 12.


Tony Coppola stands outside his restaurant Mangiamo Italian Cafe on West Main Avenue in Gastonia on Tuesday afternoon, December 28, 2021.

Tony Coppola thinks customers have embraced his Italian restaurant Mangiamo since opening downtown four months ago.

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm in the city growing,” Coppola said.

Mangiamo Italian Cafe sits across from downtown WhiskGars and its menu includes lasagna, alfredo dishes, Italian paninis, wood-fired flatbreads and pizzas.

Coppola says he appreciates having the opportunity to serve nearly 13,000 people since he opened his business four months ago.

“I love the people, the location and the atmosphere,” Coppola said.

Coppola gets a lot of traffic from hotel guests staying at the Esquire Hotel, which is also on West Main Avenue.

“I think having more stores downtown would also help,” Coppola said. “I heard hotel guests (Esquire) asking about where to buy clothes or shoes.”

It encourages new businesses to come to downtown Gastonia.

“It’s a good time,” he added.

Coppola will open an Italian pizzeria within walking distance of the Mangiamo Italian Café, which will serve New York-style “one-slice” pizzas, Philly cheese steaks and calzones.

The pizzeria will replace the former Life of Pie Pizzeria which was located at the intersection of West Main Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

He intends to open the pizza place, Mangiamo Pizza, by the end of this month.

Bayahibe Cafe

Owners Freddie and Ada Gonzalez pose together inside Bayahibe Cafe on West Main Avenue in Gastonia Thursday morning March 31, 2022.

Ada Gonzalez opened a juice bar and a Dominican sandwich shop, Bayahibe Cafedowntown alongside husband Freddy in January.

Ada says she has had nothing but good experiences in the area.

“It’s satisfying to see people love what you do and to hope your business thrives,” Ada said.

She says downtown could use more foot traffic, but you need to have a “it’ll get better” mentality.

“It’s hard to have patience to make everything work, but you have to do it until things start working the way they’re supposed to,” she added.

Ada and Freddy’s Restaurant serves juices, hot sandwiches, and Dominican appetizers such as pasteles de ojas, a meat-filled plantain pastry, or empanadas, a meat-filled turnover.

“We like Gastonia to feel ‘intimate,'” Ada said. “The place here was already furnished and we love the vibe here.”

Ada believes more businesses will attract more people, which will help all current business owners in the area.

She also appreciates the local support for her business and hopes customers will enjoy the restaurant’s food as if they were eating a hot meal at home.

Contact Janiya Winchester at 980-319-6819 or [email protected].

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