Eric Smith

Eric Smith, owner of Red Barn Likker, stands in front of some of his product. He’s closing the distillery.

Elberton, Georgia-based Iconic Burger will be coming to Abbeville sometime in August. When it does, it will replace a business that has already established itself as a city icon: Red Barn Likker.

Red Barn is closing.

In January, owner Eric Smith sold another company he owned, JES Restaurant Equipment Inc. With Red Barn’s liquor license set to expire in November, he decided it was a good time to retire.

“It just made more sense to go ahead while we’re healthy enough,” Smith said. “You don’t see many 78-year-old people being spry, hiking up a mountain.”

Red Barn opened in 2015. When Smith first purchased the building, distilling was merely a hobby of his. Red Barn “was actually gonna be a steakhouse, and we were going to call it Southern Steak and ‘Shine.”

But Smith’s wife had worked as a restaurant manager and did not want to do so again.

“She said ‘If you put me back in a restaurant ... I’ll divorce you,’” Smith said. “I did the math on that, and we kicked out the steaks and kept the ‘shine.”

The distillery sells bottles of moonshine, whiskey and mixers and has a bar where visitors can sample the liquor.

Smith plans on closing Red Barn at the end of his month, unless a company that has been eyeing the remainder of his inventory buys it first. His products will be on sale until then.

“It’s certainly been an iconic business on the square,” Abbeville Community Development Director Mike Clary said. “The concept of having an actual distillery on the square in Abbeville is certainly unique and something that brought people to the town.”

But with Iconic Burger replacing the distillery, “we’re hoping that that building will continue to be an economic generator of the city.”

Iconic Burger will offer a burger for each of the 50 U.S. states. The Mississippi comes topped with pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, onion straws and barbecue sauce; the New Jersey with cheddar, red peppers, pepperoncinis, onion straws, tomatoes, mustard and mayo; and the Colorado with Swiss, cheddar, a fried egg, grilled onions, hash browns and garlic mayo.

Iconic Burger will also open a location in Hartwell and, possibly, Toccoa.

“I think David (the owner) will do very well,” Smith said, “I hope Abbeville supports him, and that’s one of the problems that Abbeville has right now. (Residents don’t) support (their) hometown stores. ... I know Abbeville has a limited offering of things, but if you want stuff in your hometown, you have to support it.”

In retirement, Smith said he would like to write a “little mentoring book” about common sense, which, he said, is no longer common. He does not plan on selling another business of his, JES Equipment Sales and Service, for which he will be available for emergencies and to offer advice.

Contact staff writer Aleks Gilbert at 864-943-5644.