When people think about Mount Olive, NC, they think of a charming small town with an annual Pickle Festival celebrating its biggest business–the Mount Olive Pickle Company. Mount Olive is also the home of a private four-year university, The University of Mount Olive (UMO). The University attracts an incredibly diverse and international population, but many of the students do not have access to transportation. Any activity they partake in becomes limited to on-campus or within a walking distance to it unless they have a car. Apart from the student population, local residents of the Mount Olive area have had few places to turn for local entertainment. Many grew up parking in the Rose’s parking lot to hang out on nights and weekends. One of Mount Olive’s newest businesses, The Warehouse, hopes to change all that.
At 506 North Breazeale Avenue in Mount Olive, NC, The Warehouse is an alcohol free family environment with paintball, ping pong, checkers, pool, coffee, dairy-free ice cream, Internet, and comfortable places to sit and meet with friends. “We want to be a place where people can come and hangout and just be,” says Owner Lester Rector.
Lester Rector and his wife Holly moved to Mount Olive in June 2019 to become the Campus Pastor for UMO as well as the Directors of UMO’s renowned acapella choir, Carolina Sound. The Rectors had their own successful career in indie music as Lester and Holly prior to coming to Mount Olive. They had the opportunity to work with artists like the Katinas, manage Voices of Lee, work with Disney, and travel through large and small locations. “It doesn’t cost nearly as much to produce nowadays as it used to. You can cut the overhead and make hits in your own room. Music is all about connections if you are ever going to grow beyond your community. If there is any downfall to being an indie artist, it is the lack of professionalism. There are a lot of hacks mixed into the sea of artists creating now,” Lester says.
“My wife and I felt like part of the reason we had to come here from Orlando was to invest in the university where we work but also in the community,” Lester said. They revamped all of campus ministry then began to recruit and develop Carolina Sound. Later, driving around the area, Lester saw the location that would become their community outreach. The building had been a gas and service station in the 50s and 60s then it turned into Charles Swinson’s cabinet shop. For almost a decade, the building sat vacant, fell into disrepair, and was overrun by rats. Then owner, Gerald Bell, began making repairs and renovating it to rent it, and the Rectors stepped in. For a year, they rented it and continued to transform it with a vision for what it could be. In March 2022, the Rectors bought the building completely and opened to the public that August.
The Warehouse is actually part of a three-phase plan led by the Rectors’ non-profit, Face to Face Worship, Inc. The vision for this part of the plan was inspired by Pins Mechanical in Nashville–a bar that offers similar games but is not family friendly past a certain time of night. “The simplest things can be fun in the right environment,” Lester said.
Phase Two of the plan was to launch five need-based programs: Counseling for children and families, Health and wellness nutrition, Spiritual counseling, Financial counseling, and Strategic planning for businesses. “The goal is to bring in people who are experts in their field and offer a night where anyone can come and hear the expert share their particular thing. Then if anyone wants counseling, we would be a facilitator for connecting them to the right people to help them,” Lester said.
Phase Three of the plan will be to launch a place of worship where people can enjoy the community and discipleship elements already established and have a place of worship as well. “Our route for ministry is different. We feel that there are already enough Sunday morning gatherings. My goal is just to engage with people, man,” Lester said. “506 is our address but it is also our mission. It comes out of the place in John where Jesus asked the man at the pool in Bethesda if he wanted to be well. We want people to feel like they can release everything negative they are dealing with right now and just come in here and find a place of refuge and encouragement…There has always been negativity in the world but accessibility of one over the other has changed over time. It seems now that all you ever hear–what sells more–is bad news. Good news seems harder to find. There is nothing new under the sun, it’s just more downloadable.”
The Warehouse is already a popular place for meetings, studying, and games. The paintball course is also steadily booked. “Our paintball park is a pay and play all day fast course that is wide open with all inflatable bunkers. You can never memorize the course because we move them every week. We are always trying to keep it as fresh as possible,” Lester said.
People can support the vision of The Warehouse by either making a tax free donation to the non-profit, or by purchasing from any of the for profit entities in The Warehouse: Real McCoy paintball and Cafe 506 coffee with AMR non-dairy ice cream. To see upcoming events and videos inside The Warehouse, check out their posts on Facebook and Instagram.