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The Artisan Hand Behind Charleston’s Hot Spots

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The Artisan Hand Behind Charleston’s Hot Spots
Photo by Hayley Phillips

If you’ve spent a weekend dining out in Charleston, South Carolina, then chances are you’ve come into contact with some of Aaron Lucas’ work.

Have you made it up to Leon’s Oyster Shop yet for those cute little soft serve ice cream cones? Pulled up a stool at E.V.O or Two Boroughs Larder or Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer? What about charcuterie at The Macintosh? From shelving to charcuterie boards and restaurant decor to custom tap handles, Aaron Lucas is the man behind the curtain for many of Charleston’s most well-decorated restaurants. The jack-of-all-trades handyman fosters a borderline obsessive love for, well, whatever it is he’s into at the moment, which, luckily for Charleston, has been woodworking for the past few years. With a background in the dining industry that includes prominent favorites such as McCrady’s and a formal education in brewing, it’s no surprise that his passion and knowledge have found an ideal medium in modern service pieces.

Photo by Hayley Phillips
Photo by Hayley Phillips

While it may have begun with straightforward commissions such as menu-boards and shelving, of late Lucas seems to have found his groove within the artisan tap-handle community. When local beverage company AdVintage Distributing approached Lucas about creating custom handles, they just needed something simple. Then, River Dog Brewing ended up in a jam with some damaged tap handles. Lucas was able to give them a quick turnaround that no massive-scale manufacturer could have. Since then work has flowed in from Freehouse Brewery, Wooden Skiff Brewing, and most recently, Frothy Beard Brewing Company.

“The Frothy Beard ‘army’ of tap handles are my favorite,” Lucas admits. “The handle grows out of each piece of wood. Since every piece of wood is different, it’s always a new creative challenge to learn how to carve and find the beard or face.”

Lucas estimates he’s hand crafted upwards of nine-hundred tap handles, no small feat when you consider the total individuality and detail of his ‘Frothy Beard Army.’ Operating out of a work shed a few paces from his home, Lucas shows me curiosity after curiosity: sketches of prospective bearded men, a colonial carving wheel he’s just begun to master, and the contrasting weights of various types of wood. Then we head back towards the main house, an original 1940s cottage which Lucas, of course, is in the process of piece-by-piece lovingly hand-restoring.