Liberty eateries feed on megasite boost

LIBERTY — There’s more traffic and business in and around Liberty, and that should mean more dollars spent in the small Randolph County town.

This development isn’t unexpected with activity associated with the Greensboro-Randolph megasite.

“I’m actually really thankful,” said Susan Aydelette, owner of Hurricane Jane’s restaurant on South Greensboro Street. “I really think it’s going to be a blessing for everyone. I know it may not look like it right now, but you have to have patience. Some people are complaining. Eventually, everything will be settled down.”

Toyota is building its first U.S. battery plant for electric vehicles, with close to 2,000 workers expected to be in place within a few years. Construction has been taking place on the $1.2 billion plant, with concrete poured last month to mark another spot on the megasite’s timeline.

So nearby Liberty is bound to become busier.

“I feel like we’ve grown a little bit with our business,” said Nicole Perkins, a waitress at Y’all Come Back Café on South Fayetteville Street. “But it’s nothing we can’t handle yet. You’ve got the workers coming in. It’s always nice to have the business.”

The Greensboro-Randolph megasite consists of about 1,800 acres, so new infrastructure will be required to support the volume of traffic and people in the coming years.

Recently, commuters in the area have reported higher counts of orange construction signs informing drivers of some new traffic patterns. Much of those have been on U.S. 421 and surrounding areas.

Atef Youness, who has owned Maria’s Famous Subs and Pizza on South Greensboro Street since 2002, said it’s a relatively moderate increase, more noticeable on some days.

“It is getting some business every once in a while, and we’re expecting it’s going to be more,” Youness said. “I believe when people come to start (to actually work at the plant), it’s going to be more.”

Still, Youness said he intends to send his restaurant’s menus to the work site, which is about 4 miles away, to lure new customers.

Kidd’s Drive-In on South Greensboro Street has been a family-run business for 55 years.

“It’s hard for me to say,” Jerry Kidd said about the impact. “I hear more about it than I actually see. There’s an influx of some new people, but I’m not sure how many are actually from the megasite.”

Still, Kidd said he knows there are workers hauling rock and other construction-related activities that are bound to become factors. It’s just a matter of how soon widespread changes are evident.

“We’ve been fortunate. Business has been pretty good even through the pandemic,” Kidd said.

Aydelette said she noticed an uptick in megasite-related business a couple of months ago for Hurricane Jane’s, which is about a 10-minute drive away. She said she thinks it’s good for Liberty and also figures some of the extra money spent on area businesses is gravitating toward Julian as well.

“We are seeing some of the people,” Aydelette said. “Sometimes they come for lunch, and sometimes they come for a drink or for dinner.”

Maria’s Famous Subs and Pizza is open from 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. daily except for being closed Tuesdays. Youness said he’ll consider opening Tuesdays as well if business increases if he can hire enough staff.

According to (a site run by the North Carolina Department of Transportation), Browns Meadow Road near U.S. 421 north of Liberty will be closed in both directions through the end of the year. also reports that congestion due to construction traffic associated with the megasite is expected to last through the end of August.

There is roadwork and wetlands mitigation, along with the development of right-of-ways in some locations.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced that blasting at the construction site began in March. This is part of the first phase for the megasite, with the North Carolina General Assembly appropriating $135 million for NCDOT to work on-site grading, building roads and highway interchanges, and other improvements.

With all this going on, there are various points of view. Perkins said she realizes traffic volume is changing.

“Some are upset. Some are happy,” she said. “I’m sure in a year, or so, it’s going to get crazy.”

By Bob Sutton