Rebuilding downtown with the arts

ASHEBORO — Dustie Gregson, owner of the The Table Farmhouse Bakery in downtown Asheboro, has a bold vision to bring a once-bustling old mill back to life — she hopes will spark further inspiration in the area.

Gregson and her husband, Andy, have partnered with Jerry Neal, a deep-rooted businessman and investor from Randolph County, to fulfill a dream of revitalizing downtown Asheboro. They brought on other visionaries that not only want to develop downtown Asheboro, but to infuse it with arts and theatre that will grow into the community, area schools and perhaps even around the state. These plans were revealed at the newly reconstructed, dried-in Mill 133 as partners and patrons gathered to learn more about the new project happening in downtown Asheboro.

Gregson credits her father for the inspiration for the project. She said he asked her to look up and tell him what she saw, and she said there was no roof on the building at the time. Her father wanted her to think outside of her comfort zone, and his advice to her was simple to understand.

“You need to go with your gut, with what you see in your head,” Gregson said of her father’s advice. “You need to go forward with the vision of this mill.”

The Gregsons and Neal have formed VSR, LLC, which stands for “Vision to Sow and Rebuild,” and the three entrepreneurs have started that with by rehabbing the old historic Cranford Industries, which started as a hosiery mill in 1924.

Gregson’s vision is progressively coming to fruition, and supporters were able to see the plans, hear the details and engage in samples of art shared with live performances during the evening. The evening in Mill 133 offered entertainment from the Plaids which are members of the upcoming play, “Forever Plaids,” the Acheson family’s puppetry, Asheboro’s own Elizabeth Lail, best known from the TV show “Once Upon a Time”, and other performances provided by RhinoLeap Productions. RhinoLeap is a nonprofit theater production group that was formed in Asheboro in 2017, and the venue for their performances are held at the historic Sunset Theatre in downtown Asheboro. The news that RhinoLeap will be permanently residing in Mill 133 was a part of the announcements Saturday night.

Tom Osteen, the executive producer of RhinoLeap, addressed the crowd of hundreds to explain how his love of the arts has collided with this vision of VSR, and how he believes Asheboro will become a major theatrical center in North Carolina.

Osteen’s team of professional actors will be housed in the space at the new Mill 133 and will provide workshops for those inspired by drama, and offerings for those that just want to be entertained or develop a basic knowledge of the arts.

This team of professional actors will also present some year-round productions in Mill 133’s new theater. The group will be full-time residents in September, and they plan to take performances into Randolph County schools as well some in surrounding counties. If you would like to help RhinoLeap teach and perform all over North Carolina, look for donation information online at

The mill’s plans include not only space for RhinoLeap Productions and its performance area and theater, but also space for retail, markets, a bakery, a spa, garden areas, parking and even seating around the mill’s old iconic smokestack.

But as Gregson explained all of these grand designs, there was not a hint of doubt. She spoke of Psalm 1:33 and its message for brothers and sisters to dwell in unity as the perfect inspiration for her own Mill 133 to take root, spreading beauty and prosperity within Asheboro and beyond.