Walk Down Main Street: Bessemer City's buzz, businesses and bakeries
As a part of our Walk Down Main Street series, our writers take you on a stroll down the beautiful streets that make up our county's down towns, sharing a bit of insider info along the way.
There’s an auspicious buzz growing around the town of Bessemer City. Just 12 minutes west of Gastonia on I-85, Bessemer City has adopted the humble bee as the town’s de facto mascot. A small animal, yet mightily important to the growth of an ecosystem, the humble bee is the perfect embodiment of the town’s past, but most importantly it’s future.
Hard work and dogged determination drove the town of Bessemer City from the beginning. After being granted land by Great Britain’s King George II in 1754, James Ormand founded the Ormand Mining Company to take advantage of a multitude of mining resources. The old Ormand Furnace processed iron and gold ore and has been rumored to have produced cannonballs for the newly formed United States in the Revolutionary War.
Officially incorporated in 1893 with the help of John Askew Smith, money from the mines diversified to mills, continuing the trend of what was—and still is—a key industry for all of North Carolina. Osage Mill, spanning 260,000 square feet, was one of the most notable mills not just in Bessemer City, but in all of Gaston County. The mill stayed operational all the way until 1995, just shy of 100 years. Today, a mixed-use redevelopment is underway to transform the mill at the heart of Bessemer City into an economic driver.
A town that couldn’t stand still is flying forward with the speed and strength of the bee, ready to face the future of the growing Gaston County and the ideals of a conscious country. Essential to the future of a fossil-free world and a new age of American jobs are electric vehicles. Electric vehicles need a strong, rechargeable battery, built from the mineral lithium. Lithium is essential for the new age for cars but is also important for products ranging from pacemakers to aerospace technology. The future will rely on lithium, and Bessemer City is sitting on lots of it. Companies such as Livent, Piedmont Lithium, and even Tesla have announced plans for investment along the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt, promising economic growth and jobs for the future of Gaston County.
This means big changes in store for Bessemer City. The town recently released the BEE Ready 2030 Vision Plan, essentially a restructuring of the zoning codes to better fit the town’s mission of economic growth, accessible services, opportunities for citizens, and ultimately a high quality of life. Evidence of this transformation can be seen right on Main Street. With a mix of old and new businesses, married together in a tireless effort to preserve and persevere.
The buzz is back in Bessemer City, and it’s only going to get louder.
Dining & Bakeries
It’s essential to know where the good places to eat are, especially in an area you’re planning on exploring. Bessemer City has a nice variety of restaurants and shops that serve the C’s: coffee, cocktails, cake, cheeseburgers, country cooking, and other classics.
101 E. Virginia Ave.
Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Gaston County loves its coffee shops, and Blossom just so happens to serve delicious cups of your go-to coffee order daily (not to mention its cool interior). Blossom is also part bistro and cafe, so there’s plenty of fresh-made sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts to pair with what you’re drinking. If you get there early, try their breakfast food, or come later for a selection of wine and beer options.
610 Gastonia Hwy.
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday 3 p.m.-9 p.m.
From the husband and wife duo of Dino and Meg Tsambouniery comes Dino’s Italian Restaurant, a Bessemer City favorite that’s revered for their wings, pizza, cheesecakes, and Italian food selection. Beyond the food, the service is always friendly, and the price is too. Dine-in or use their drive-thru to see what the hype is about.
136 W. Virginia Ave.
Monday-Thursday, 12 p.m.-6:30 p.m.; Friday 12 p.m.-7:30 p.m.; Saturday 12 p.m.-6 p.m.
For dessert, check out Elo Sweets & Goodies. They’ve got a sugary selection that’s great for any sweet tooth, with a diverse selection of ice cream flavors, Mexican candy, cakes, brownies, and other snacks.
421 E. Virginia Ave.
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday 7:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
Grandma Hoyt’s Country Buffet and Catering is a verified cult classic restaurant in Gaston County. With an all-you-can-eat buffet of country-style favorites like fried chicken, country-style steak, and the traditional sides that came from the late Grandma Hoyt herself, there’s little chance you’ll be leaving hungry. There’s a unique menu every week, and if you go on Saturday, show up early to try their breakfast buffet.
617 Gastonia Hwy.
Monday 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Tuesday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Another cult favorite is McDonald’s Family Restaurant. McDonald’s doesn’t take any shortcuts, and since 1965 they’ve been grinding their own hamburger meat for burgers and chili, both customer favorites. They’ve also got hot dogs and chopped and minced barbeque, and don’t forget their slaw.
201 Pennsylvania Ave.
Sunday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Whiskey Mill offers two necessities for a good time: cocktails and a cool patio, making it another great place to grab a drink. Whiskey Mill is also home to Bessemer City Brewing Company, with signature beers such as their Lithium English Mild Pale Ale, Sir Henry (Bessemer) Irish Red Ale, and Sir Henry’s Mistress Vanilla Bourbon Oak Porter Ale. The food matches the beer in quality, with selections like their black Angus burgers, several flavors of wings, and other great courses.
Shopping & Services
Whether you’re looking to rent a movie, picking a new piece of furniture, or you’re simply looking for a bouquet of flowers with the card to match, Bessemer City has you covered. Go get your retail needs taken care of at the list of businesses below.
203 W. Virginia Ave.
Monday - Saturday, 2 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
For all the bikers out there, Bessemer City Motorcycle Shop sells parts and accessories and provides repair services at an affordable price. Don’t have a motorcycle? The shop also services ATVs and side-by-sides, as well.
113 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Tuesday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Pamper your four-legged friends at Bubble Baths & Beyond. With a friendly staff that are “groomers with a heart,” be assured your dog or cat will be treated like a king or queen during their appointment. Bubble Baths & beyond also offers services such as daycare, boarding, and even pet portraits.
112 W. Virginia Ave.
Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Central Drug of Bessemer City fits the mold of the classic downtown drug store like a glove. Besides providing a comprehensive selection of pharmacy services, there’s also a soda fountain and an ice cream shop that’s serving favorites like lemonade, orangeade, ice cream floats, and more. Visit today to experience “a neighborhood favorite.”
130 W. Virginia Ave.
Tuesday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Thursday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Go get the A-list salon treatment at Hollywood Lites Hair Salon. Located right next to City Hall, the professional stylists at Hollywood Lites will give you the high-quality cut, color, style, and more that fits your preferences.
Adding to an impressive plethora of art options in Gaston County is MikWright Greeting Cards, headquartered in downtown Bessemer City. Their eclectic mix of originally designed greeting cards is designed to “poke fun,” “push buttons” and be provocative in a funny fashion. They also sell fun magnets, notepads and stickies, t-shirts, coasters, and more. Check their website for the most up to date options.
113B E. Virginia Ave.
Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
For film and TV lovers, you must stop by Movie Mania on Bessemer City’s Main Street. With a collection of over 15,000 movies that are still growing, they most definitely have that title you’re looking for. Everything is $1.49 per night, with additional nights discounted and daily specials offered regularly.
105 E. Virginia Ave.
Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Antiquing in Gaston County is great for casual perusers or the practical hunter on the lookout for that next great home good. Otis Merchandise Gallery is one of those great antiquing spots, with a variety of gently used furniture sets, bedroom sets, home decor, appliances, lighting, and accessories, and more. Stop by and browse their selection, or if you live in the Bessemer City area, Otis Merchandise Gallery delivers straight to you.
204 E. Virginia Ave.
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Since 1986, Peggy’s Bouquets has been curating flowers for all occasions. With a focus on “impeccable floral design and friendly one-on-one customer service,” Peggy’s Bouquets is an excellent choice for all occasions, including birthdays, funerals, anniversaries, holidays, and more.
Things to Do
Bessemer City’s parks are an excellent example of creative placemaking. Expect to see quality green space melded with prominent art pieces dedicated to the humble black and yellow bee.
125 E. Virginia Ave.
Commissioned in 2020 by local artist, Allan Potter, the mural is a must-see attraction in downtown Bessemer City. Depicted in the mural is a gathering of honeybees that are hard at work to collect pollen at the base of nearby Crowders Mountain, showcased with a blend of dark and light colors that contrast excellently with each other. With an emphasis on work ethic, determination, and resiliency, the mural perfectly encapsulates what Bessemer City was, is, and aspires to be into the future.
1316 Crowders Mountain Rd.
The Bessemer City Park scans 35 acres of green space close to the downtown area. There are baseball and softball fields, football and soccer fields, playgrounds, and a walking and jogging track. The Park offers plenty of space for a picnic, some outdoor relaxation, or a nice workout through the wide green fields that are flanked by trees and other foliage.
114 W. Virginia Ave.
Back at the center of town is Centennial Park, built-in 1993 to celebrate Bessemer City’s 100th birthday. The park was renovated in 2015, and in 2016 the project won an award for the redesign’s effect on the local economy. The park has a stage at the back and a community green space in the middle. Displayed along the walls that enclose the downtown park is artwork from a mix of Bessemer City High School students and local professionals. The artwork rotates on a regular basis and provides an aesthetically pleasing touch with an emphasis on creative space.