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On the morning of September 11, 2001, Inez Ribustello was asleep in a condo in Blowing Rock, where she was spending time with family after her sister’s wedding. Her mom came into the room in tears and told her that she needed to come watch the news. In the living room, Ribustello learned that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center — the building where she worked on the top floor as sommelier and beverage director for Windows on the World, a job that she’d dreamed of since culinary school.
Ribustello sat on the floor, watching in horror and disbelief as the towers fell. All of her coworkers who were in the restaurant at the time of the attack were killed. If not for her sister’s wedding, Ribustello would have been there, too.
It took years for her to cope with the loss, but the tragedy taught her an important lesson: “Life is fleeting, and anything can happen,” she says. “Don’t take anything for granted.” It also taught her to value relationships and giving back above all else.
Ribustello has carried those values into her business, Tarboro Brewing Company, on Main Street in her native Tarboro and at a satellite taproom at Rocky Mount Mills. She builds relationships with customers by listening to them when they have suggestions for new beers, and by inviting them to participate in events like watermelon-cutting day, when watermelons are prepared to make the brewery’s Seed Spitter gose. She also offers the brewery space to the community to host pop-up markets, clinics, and workshops.
She sees her business as an opportunity to contribute to the revitalization of her small town. “I love sharing the story of Tarboro and Tarboro Brewing Company with people all over North and South Carolina who may not have ever heard of our town,” she says. “When people have our beer, they put Tarboro on their list of destinations to visit.” And for Ribustello, after a world-shattering tragedy, it was just where she wanted to be: home.
Tarboro Brewing Company
526 North Main Street
Tarboro, NC 27886