Shooter Mother Earth Spirits Downtown Kinston North Carolina

Shooter at Mother Earth Spirits, Downtown Kinston. Photo by Jessica Braxton.

“Let us be-gin,” a phrase you may recognize if you’ve ever visited Mother Earth Spirits in downtown Kinston. These three words are emblazoned on a large canvas welcoming visitors to the distillery.

Kevin Graham, better known as “Shooter,” is the Head Distiller at Mother Earth Spirits, a position he’s held since October of 2014 when the first bottle of gin poured from the still. Originally from California, Shooter relocated to North Carolina prior to working at Mother Earth. Starting out as a home brewer, his passion led him to the soon to be famous brewery where he worked in all facets of beer production before taking on other roles. Over the years, Shooter has made many significant contributions to Mother Earth. He started the brewery tour program, built the souvenir store that is currently located at the brewery and developed the first gin recipe.

In January of 2013, Steven Hill was working to bring the idea of creating a craft distillery to life and was searching for the right person to take the lead. Shooter was instrumental in developing the first recipes and production.

Originally located in the same building as the brewery, consumer demand for the distillery’s products increased rapidly and they soon outgrew the small space. In early 2017, Mother Earth Spirits purchased more equipment and the building they are now operating in at 302 Mitchell Street in downtown Kinston.

Mother Earth Spirits Gin is unlike many other gins. It has a lower juniper and pine tree flavor opting for a more citrus finish. Shooter uses orange and lemon peel to get the award-winning citrus finish that the gin is known for. Since the 2014 release of gin and whiskey, Mother Earth Spirits has earned a total of 10 medals in national competitions.

Although currently available only in North Carolina, Mother Earth Spirits is looking forward to shipping gin to other markets in the near future. Demand has continued to grow and the company recently purchased more new equipment to increase production.

Mother Earth Spirits is also producing a single malt American whiskey. The whiskey is aged in charred White American Oak barrels for at least 24 months. Each batch is hand bottled and numbered, and features notes of caramel, fresh leather and toasted oak. The whiskey is already very popular, and was recently named Best Whiskey in North Carolina!

Shooter is still harvesting whiskey from the old location and it is currently in and out of stock due to the small production abilities from 2 years ago. However, by the end of this year, the whiskey will be properly aged and on the market without any further interruption.

Mother Earth Spirits works hard to provide the highest quality product. Distilling is different than making new brews. “It’s not harder, it’s different. It involves more chemistry than just allowing something to ferment and creating a beer,” says Shooter. “We ferment the wash similar to the beer process but then we extract all the alcohol and flavor discarding the rest, so we have to go through more processes to create the product,” he said.

In addition to creating award-winning gin and whiskey, Shooter’s other passions include fly fishing in the mountains, building and flying remote-controlled aircraft, and playing and listening to jazz, country and rock music. Shooter has always enjoyed music and playing musical instruments—drums, guitar, violin, banjo and bass. He even played once with the members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in the 80s.

Shooter loves to show off the beautiful distillery. You can make an appointment online for a tour and if you’re lucky, you just might even get to meet his dog, “Whiskey!”

Mother Earth Spirits
302 Mitchell Street
Kinston, NC 28501


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Becky Whittington never expected she would be utilizing the experience and skills she gained as a marketing and business teacher to run her own business. She served as a high school teacher for more than 18 years before moving into the role of Testing and Accountability Director for Lenoir County Public Schools. Today, Becky and her husband Wynn run Just Add Salt, a contemporary ladies apparel and jewelry boutique in downtown Kinston.

Visitors and Kinston locals love shopping at Just Add Salt. “Becky makes me feel welcome and her store is a comfortable place to visit,” said Jessica Braxton, a frequent shopper at Just Add Salt. “It’s a place to feel beautiful.”

The idea to open a boutique started as a desire to develop a lifestyle brand. Wynn and Becky were attending a Jupiter Jones concert at the coast several years ago and noticed a variety of fishing and beach shirts. Guided by the premise that salt air and salt water make everything better, they had an idea for a name and Just Add Salt was born. They sat on the idea for three years until Becky retired from Lenoir County Public Schools.

Becky and Wynn opened their store on May 1, 2018. Located on Herritage Street across from Middle Grounds Coffeehouse, Just Add Salt currently stocks a wonderful variety of ladies apparel, jewelry, accessories, t-shirts, candles and other items that may be personalized with custom monogramming.

We recently caught up with Becky to find out more about what’s shakin’ at Just Add Salt.

Chris: “What inspired you to start your own business?”
Becky: “We felt that there was a tremendous need for another option for ladies to find affordable fashion and gift items in the downtown area. We saw the revitalization of downtown Kinston and wanted to be a part of it while contributing to the economy.”

Chris: “What has been your biggest challenge?”
Becky: “Because our customers are so awesome and shop with us frequently, our biggest challenge has been maintaining inventory levels. This is the best problem a business could have!”

Chris: “What do you love most about Just Add Salt?”
Becky: “The best thing about Just Add Salt is our customers.  We love being able to visit with our customers and assist them with finding items that add a little spice to their lives. We also enjoy meeting people from all over the United States and various parts of the world who enjoy spending time with us in Kinston.”

Visit Just Add Salt in downtown Kinston at 209 N Herritage Street.


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Jessy at Middle Grounds Coffeehouse in Kinston

Accountant and part-time stand-up comedian turned barista and successful entrepreneur Jessica Dawson decided to pursue her dream of opening a coffee shop on Herritage Street in downtown Kinston in September of 2015. Fast forward three years, the birth of her son Arlo and thousands of frappés later, and she will soon venture into new grounds in downtown Goldsboro.

Jessy and her husband James, high school sweethearts, plan to open their second Middle Grounds Coffeehouse location in mid-January. Renovations have been underway for several weeks and excitement is brewing with Goldsboro locals. As someone who works downtown, it’s nice to see new and unique businesses open here. Downtown Goldsboro can use a place to get a good cup of coffee,” said Mark Blizzard.

We recently caught up with Jessy to find out more about her grind.

Chris: What inspired you to start your own business?
Jessy: “I wanted to give people a place to belong, a place to call their own, and I was attracted to the freedom and independence of running my own business.”

Chris: What has been your biggest challenge?
Jessy: “Finding and hiring the right people. I do my best to find people with the same love for others like I have. The people that work with me have to know how to brighten someone’s day. I can teach anyone coffee, but finding good people is hard.”

Chris: What do you love most about Middle Grounds?
Jessy: “The community and sense of belonging. I love when I walk in and everyone knows my name, and not just because I’m the owner. I enjoy seeing others make connections and spread the love in my shop. I feel like Middle Grounds has become a magical place in the midst of a world that can be so chaotic at times.”

Chris: What are some interesting facts about your business most people don’t know?
Jessy: “The renovation work was completed with a lot of help from my family. My mom and dad built all of the tables at the shop, and my husband James built the pallet wood wall and painted the MG logo on the brick wall feature that is framed by 100 year old tobacco barn beams. And, there are three hidden camouflaged doors at Middle Grounds.”

Watch the Middle Grounds Facebook Page for news about opening day in Goldsboro!

Middle Grounds Coffeehouse
212 N Herritage Street
Kinston, NC 28501

114 S Center Street
Goldsboro, NC 27530


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Thanks to the 2017 state budget approved by the North Carolina General Assembly which took effect on January 1, the personal income tax has dropped from 5.499% to 5.25%. In addition, the corporate tax rate has been lowered from 3% to 2.5% in our state.

Just five years ago, North Carolina had the highest personal and corporate income tax rates in the region. With the recent changes, our state now boasts the lowest personal income tax rate in the Southeastern United States other than Florida and Tennessee (both of which do not impose personal income taxes), and the lowest corporate tax rate in the nation among the 48 states that levy such a tax.

This is a welcome change for small businesses and entrepreneurs in our state. “Just last week our small startup wrote about a dozen payroll checks. Every single incentive to help us grow is welcome,” said BJ Murphy, CEO of Magic Mile Media and Publisher of “Small business owners in North Carolina work tirelessly to provide food not only for their families, but for their colleagues and employees.”


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KINSTON, NC – Magic Mile Media and Edge360 Creative are proud to announce that the two small businesses have agreed in concept to a joint marketing agreement to better serve the Eastern North Carolina market.

Magic Mile Media specializes in social media marketing for small businesses, organizations and personal brands with capabilities including photography, videography, graphic design and website design. Edge360 Creative is known for its superb website development, hosting and maintenance services. The joint marketing agreement will allow both companies to build upon their core strengths and leverage each other’s capacity to better serve existing and future clients.

“Most of us are childhood friends who’ve supported each other throughout our professional journeys,” said Magic Mile Media CEO and President BJ Murphy. “We believe the synergies between these two small businesses create a dynamic multi-media approach that will better serve our clients and the market.”

Chris Decker, Edge360 Creative’s Chief Creative Officer, said, “I’m excited about partnering with Magic Mile Media. This strategic relationship will combine Edge360 Creative’s solid technical expertise with the creativity and social first approach of Magic Mile Media. Our existing and future clients will be able to access a larger, more complete suite of marketing services.”

Brandon Potter, Magic Mile Media’s Chief Creative Officer and owner of Potter Photography & Design, said, “By adding Edge360 Creative to our team we can create more powerful websites that will allow us to service a broader range of clients. We will also be able to service larger clients that require more integration as well as dynamic info on their site.”

Edge360 Creative Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer Franklin Floyd said, “At Edge360 Creative, we pride ourselves on providing the best and highest quality digital solutions for our clients. We are excited about the new and expanded services we can now offer thanks to this strategic partnership.”

About Magic Mile Media –
Magic Mile Media was founded in December 2016 on the premise that small business owners and individual brands understand the need for social engagement, but lack the resources of time and/or knowledge to implement a successful strategy consistently. Magic Mile Media is a “social-first” branding firm that helps small businesses and individual brands harness the power of video, photography, text, and graphics to maximize target market reach, social engagement, and brand profitability.

About Edge360 Creative –
Edge360 Creative, founded in 2014, is an eastern NC based digital marketing agency, passionate about giving you the edge in web development, logo design, social media and more.