A Seat at the Bar

by Feb 19, 2024North Brunswick, Pub Scout

At The Scapegoat Taproom at Compass Pointe in Leland, Chris and Jody Walker welcome guests with 50 taps and cold cans and give the world’s great scapegoats their due.

The idea to open a place dedicated to scapegoats came to Chris Walker while he was in college. It may have been because he learned that Mrs. O’Leary and her cow got a bum rap for causing the great Chicago fire of 1871. There is no evidence that her cow ever kicked over a lantern in her barn, thus starting the great conflagration. But poor Mrs. O’Leary got the blame. Hence, she was forever in the scapegoat Hall of Fame.

Chris wanted a place — a bar actually — that would bring a measure of justice to many of the great scapegoats in history. When I traveled to Compass Pointe in Leland to check out Chris’s new business venture, which held its official grand opening on September 2, we talked about Scapegoat and scapegoats.

I asked Chris if Joe Pisarchik would be recognized in his new business. As in the NY Giants quarterback who was the architect of the infamous fumble at the end of a game the Giants were winning with just seconds left. Herman Edwards scooped up “The Fumble” and raced to the end zone, leaving the Giants and their long-suffering fans with mouths agape in disbelief. To add insult to injury, it was the only touchdown Edwards ever scored.

“Wow! That’s a good one!” Chris said.

Leland NC Scapegoat Taproom

And that’s what I said after spending a few hours at the bar chatting with Chris and his wife and business partner, Jody, and enjoying a flight of beers.

I learned that Scapegoat is a family-run and family-built business.

Jody’s day gig is as a teacher of fifth grade in Leland, in the very same elementary school she attended as a child. Chris’s full-time gig is as a firefighter, and their two children, Lydia (a student) and Zeke (a graduate) are also heavily involved in the venture.

Jody and Lydia designed the interior, including the bar. Chris knew where he wanted those 50 taps and how he wanted them to look. His 83-year-old stepdad, Merle VonCannon, was responsible for the four massive wooden high-top tables in the comfortable space, and he hand-turned each one of the 50 tap handles and stained them in various colors.

Though the structure has plenty of glass and light, it is still the “comfortably dark” space Jody always wanted. According to Jody, their clientele comes mainly from Compass Pointe, and they enjoy the “welcome to our home” feeling they get while there. Jody said that one of her goals is to know every one of her customers by name, including the names of their children and grandchildren. A noble mission that, but it worked for TV’s Cheers bar, and, in fact, it’s the main ingredient of many a successful tavern or bar.

Scapegoat Taproom NC

Chris’s goal in the next five years is to ensure that customers see the Walkers’ “family values and family approach” as clearly evident in the day-to-day operation of the business.

“We tell our part-timers to treat this place as they would their own homes and to make our guests feel as comfortable as possible,” Chris said. “If they see something they think needs attention, they have only to tell us.”

When I asked the obvious question about whether Leland might be over-saturated with beer places, Jody said pretty much what Jeremy Mann of Mannkind Brewing says: “Leland is growing and there are enough customers to go around.”

But what about places like BBX, which has the same basic model as Scapegoat? I asked.

“Shannon and Monique (BBX’s owners) have been absolutely wonderful to us,” Jody says. “They are one of our most valuable resources, and we have great affection and respect for them.”

And with that Compass Pointe catchment area right in Scapegoat’s backyard, it would not appear that the two businesses will be fighting for customers.

And what is that business? The Scapegoat offers a wide variety of beer from 50 taps and a cooler full of cans. And wine, of course, for those who claim not to be beer nuts.

Leland NC Scapegoat

Interestingly, I shared with Jody the very successful presentation of Beer Skool, as done in Tap Time at OIB. She was very intrigued, so that may be on a future agenda. Paint and sip nights for the ladies could also be planned. Football games and live music are on the calendar. Scapegoat does not offer food, but various food trucks show up on different days of the week

With the positive attitudes of the owners, a hefty beer and wine list and a comfortable place to quaff that’s close to home, Scapegoat’s future looks very promising indeed.

If you’re a beer nut, you should check it out.

And don’t forget to say hello to Joe Pisarchik and Mrs. O’Leary, if you see them.

Thirsty?
The Scapegoat Taproom
Open Wednesday through Sunday
2789 Compass Pointe South Wynd NE #4, Leland
thescapegoattaproom.com
Facebook: thescapegoattaproom

Photography by Katie D