College News

RISE grant winner opening new store in Downtown Sanford celebrating North Carolina's finest

Click to enlarge,  Cheryl Crist, the visionary entrepreneur behind Gather NC, passionately believes in the importance of supporting locally made and sourced goods.

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Cheryl Crist, the visionary entrepreneur behind Gather NC, passionately believes in the importance ... (more)

10.17.2023College & CommunityCollege General

SANFORD, N.C. - Gather NC, a passionately curated retail haven championing North Carolina's local artisans and producers, has announced its upcoming grand opening on Nov. 8 at 106 Carthage Street in Sanford.

Founded by Cheryl Crist, Gather NC is the realization of a dream inspired by her deep appreciation for the Tar Heel State's natural beauty and the exceptional craftsmanship found within its communities. After relocating to North Carolina in 2021, Crist embarked on a personal mission to explore all of the state's stunning parks within a year. Along her journey, she discovered the wealth of locally made treasures in quaint towns and was captivated by their unrivaled quality compared to mass-produced items.

Gather NC will offer an expansive array of North Carolina-based products. The store's carefully curated selection will feature a diverse range of items, including delectable foods, eco-friendly home care products, luxurious personal care items, fine wines, craft beers, and stylish apparel. Crist's commitment to fostering the local creative community will also be evident, as Gather NC proudly showcases artwork from talented local artists, encompassing exquisite jewelry, captivating paintings, and intricate woodworking creations.

Crist, the visionary entrepreneur behind Gather NC, passionately believes in the importance of supporting locally made and sourced goods. She stated, "We often talk about shopping locally, but I want to take it a step further with shopping locally made. Gather NC is a place where you can discover and embrace the true essence of North Carolina through its craftsmanship and creativity."

Crist's journey to opening Gather NC was further empowered by her participation in the RISE program last March. This business startup program, presented by the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center, Downtown Sanford, Inc., and the Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce, not only awarded Crist a $5,000 grant but also provided her with essential tools and knowledge to bring her vision to life.

Terri Brown, Small Business Center Director at Central Carolina Community College, said, "Cheryl's dedication in the RISE program has been inspiriting to watch and it's exciting to see her go from an idea to now prepping to open her store. Cheryl takes 'shop local' to a new level and I can't wait to see what unique items she will offer."

Kelli Laudate, Executive Director for Downtown Sanford, Inc., noted, "Cheryl's new shop will be a real asset to the downtown shopping experience. The customer base is growing by leaps and bounds and by adding another unique retail store to our already robust choices, we know she will thrive as a merchant and be well received!"

Susan Gomez, Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chamber of Commerce Director, said, "We are so proud to say Cheryl Crist is another winning graduate of our RISE program! Her store, Gather NC, will add to the retail landscape that enriches our community. Cheryl Crist, along with all our other RISE grant winners and participants, are proof that the collaboration between Central Carolina Community College's Small Business Center and Downtown Sanford, Inc. to create the RISE program was needed. The RISE program has benefited the economic development of our town as well as pushed forth the entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens. We look forward to supporting Gather NC."

Reflecting on her experience with the RISE program, Crist stated, "Winning the grant was exciting, but the program was a game-changer in more ways than one. It helped me delve deep into creating a solid business plan, kept me on track, and introduced me to a network of experts and fellow entrepreneurs."

Crist is currently hard at work preparing for the grand opening of Gather NC, and she extends a warm invitation to everyone curious about the store to drop by and say "hello."

Join Cheryl and the Gather NC team in celebrating the grand opening on Nov. 8, and experience the magic of North Carolina's craftsmanship and creativity.

For more information about Gather NC, please visit For more information about the RISE program, visit