Asheville food and beverage industry gets new representative on BCTDA board

BEER ON BOARD: Lucious Wilson will join the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority in September as the lone representative of the area's brewery scene. Photo by Greg Parlier

Lucious Wilson says he isn’t beholden to anyone, except maybe his two kids, ages 6 and 9. They are what motivates him to volunteer to serve on numerous boards and commissions around Asheville despite describing himself as “superintroverted.”

“I want to build a community that I feel comfortable putting my kids in. So you have to be part of that,” he says.

Wilson, general manager of Wedge Brewing Co., will join the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority in September as one of two representatives of businesses not in the hotel or vacation rental industry. (The other is Kathleen Mosher, vice president of communications at The Biltmore Co.) He replaces Andrew Celwyn, co-owner of downtown retail shop Herbiary, who has served on the board for six years.

Wilson is adding the TDA to an already crowded calendar of community meetings. He’s on the board of directors for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission and is the treasurer of the Asheville Brewers Alliance. Previously, he served on the city of Asheville’s Recreation Board and participated in UNC Asheville’s Leadership Asheville program.

“Lucious personally represents a diverse community we aim to engage locally and welcome as visitors. As residents who live, work and play in our community, each BCTDA board member puts their own personal experiences and pathways into service on behalf of our community and industry,” says Vic Isley, president and CEO of the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, which the TDA board oversees.

Wilson says he is considering pulling back from doing so much community work to avoid overextending himself, but he has valued learning about the inner workings of the city and other entities. Participating on community boards is Wilson’s way to search for answers to problems that many people don’t know how to begin to solve, he says.

“I think many people want things that are reasonable, but not within the constraints of what is [reality]. And so for me, [I got involved] to understand, what are those constraints? And why are they there? And how does that affect business? And how does that affect my kid? How do the hazards around us affect the world that I live in? I want to be a part of that as opposed to just kind of complaining about them,” he says.

Family first, food and beverage second

A native of Queens, N.Y., Wilson moved to Asheville in 2000 to finish his bachelor’s degree in political science at UNCA. While still in school, he worked at Asheville Pizza and Brewing Co., where he stayed for seven years as assistant general manager, eventually helping the business open the Coxe Avenue location in 2006.

He says owner Mike Rangel gave him the freedom to be creative in his growth as a manager in those early days.

“It was one of the rare opportunities in those seven years of my career that I could really, authentically just be me and make mistakes and be successful, and be whatever and learn as a manager and do all those things. And so I’m very thankful for that.”

He moved to Charlotte in 2007 to take care of his mom, who had health issues. He had tried to care for her by driving back and forth between the two cities weekly, but he was wearing himself down.

“It was one of the most gut-wrenching decisions I’ve ever had to make because it wasn’t something that I wanted at all. I had a really great world and life [in Asheville],” he says.

In Charlotte, he worked with a friend he calls family, expanding Stomp, Chomp and Roll food and beverage brands to as many as eight locations by the time he left in 2019 as director of operations.

Wilson still made regular visits to Asheville, where he played ultimate Frisbee. It was there that a romance sparked with his now wife.

While family brought him to Charlotte initially, it was family that brought him back to Asheville in 2019, when his wife, Ally Wilson, found a job here.

“One day my wife came to me and said, ‘I don’t want to be in Charlotte anymore. And I found a job, and we’re moving.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’” Wilson says with a chuckle.

“We thought about where we wanted to raise our kids, and I’m pretty big on family. At the end of the day, if my wife is in a space to move, and my kids are going to have opportunities there, then I have to pick that. But certainly, from a business standpoint, it was disappointing,” he says about leaving his friend’s business in Charlotte.

A different approach 

Back in Asheville, Wilson worked as a consultant for a few different food and beverage operations before he decided that Wedge owner Tim Schaller would allow him to do more of the community work he was interested in.

That interest led him to the TDA, just as it launches the Legacy Investment from Tourism fund, which directs grants to projects that could more directly benefit the community at large.

For the last six years, Celwyn, whom Wilson is replacing, developed a reputation for being the board’s skeptic. He often was the lone dissenting vote on various issues, including voting no in June on the annual budget because he said Explore Asheville staff made too much more than other employees paid with public funds like teachers and city and county staff. In July, Celwyn was the only member to vote against funding McCormick Field (For more information, see “TDA approves McCormick Field improvement project by narrow vote“.)

Wilson, who admits that he doesn’t like conflict, doesn’t necessarily intend to take the same combative approach.

“I think what he does is very valuable,” Wilson says, speaking of Celwyn. “And I think that that process is very valuable. But I also think that you have to lead from your heart. And you have to lead from who you are. And that’s not necessarily who I am. At the end of the day, I’m superintroverted. But I now have a forum. I understand that. I understand that people listen to me more.”

Wilson says he started to understand the importance of his role after a March meeting in which several business owners addressed city leaders about safety issues downtown.

At that meeting, Wilson tried to distinguish between the issues of homelessness and what he called vagrancy.

He said he acknowledges that as a Black man, he is often the “darkest person in the room” and his words sometimes carry more weight. But he wants his track record to speak for itself, so he focuses on pushing for unity and getting results.

“For a while, I just let things figure themselves out. But now I’m like, ‘What if it doesn’t figure itself out?’ Then you feel more of an obligation to be a part of the conversations,” he says. “Explore Asheville is a resource. It is a resource that has a tremendous amount of money. I think people don’t always understand that resource. But before I figure that out, I need to know the resource.”


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One thought on “Asheville food and beverage industry gets new representative on BCTDA board

  1. Mitch

    Sounds like he’ll be a great addition and hopefully will give the other members pause in rubber stamping everything.

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