September 24, 2022

Charlie Shelton, a Triad native who founded one of North Carolina’s largest construction companies and was a vineyard owner who helped lead the development of the state’s wine industry, died Jan. 22 at age 86 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Charles Madison Shelton Jr. was born in Mount Airy in 1935. According to his obituary, he was the son of a barber named Reid whose customers included a local kid named Andy Griffith, who used to pay by singing a song or two.
With his brother, Ed, he built several construction businesses. They launched Fortis Homes in 1962, then went on to establish King Sash and Door Co. and Carolinas’ Distribution Services. In 1977, they started Shelco, a general contractor company, and The Shelton Companies, a private real estate and investment firm.
The Sheltons moved Shelco from Winston-Salem to Charlotte in 1991, and the company grew into a regional power, building the Hearst Tower, Ballantyne Commons and Three Wachovia Center, buildings that helped transform downtown Charlotte. Shelco also built the Sara Lee Corp. headquarters building, the first Stratford Building. Consolidated Center, Madison Park, Northridge Business Park, Grassy Creek Business Park and Hampton Industrial Park in Forsyth County.
The Shelton brothers sold Shelco to a group of the company’s senior managers in 2003. The company remains one of the largest general contractors in the state, according to ACBJ research
In 1999, the Shelton brothers opened Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, a Surry County town in the heart of the Yadkin Valley, about 45 miles northwest of Winston-Salem and 10 miles southwest of Mount Airy. It is one of the largest wineries and vineyards on the East Coast and attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year. Harvest Grill, the restaurant at Shelton Vineyards, was recently named one of the top 100 restaurants in the country by Yelp.
“The Yadkin Valley is unique in climate and soil,” he told TBJ in 2002. “We think the wines produced from grapes grown in the Yadkin Valley are distinctive and being able to put Yadkin Valley on our labels will help the consumer better identify the wines they purchase.”
The growth of the N.C. winery industry and Shelton Vineyards became Charlie Shelton’s focus. According to the Shelton Vineyards website: “Charlie and Ed were also responsible for petitioning the federal government for American Viticultural Area recognition for North Carolina’s first AVA, The Yadkin Valley that was approved in 2003. Through their hard work and dedication to their state and community they have helped to put North Carolina back on the map as one of the top wine producing states in the nation.”
Shelton Vineyards was the third to begin operation in the Yadkin Valley and the 12th to open statewide, according to The Charlotte Observer. The brothers built a hotel nearby and held events there.
“As someone who has worked with Charlie for over a decade he was a giant of a man and monumental catalyst for positive change in Surry County,” Surry County Commissioner Eddie Harris said in an interview with The Mount Airy News. “His humble origins never left him in his pursuit and love for our community college and making our county and region a better place to live.”
In a 2007 interview with Charlotte Business Journal as the brothers were being inducted into the N.C. Business Hall of Fame, Ed said of Charlie: “Charlie’s more construction-oriented than I am. I consider him a top-notch builder. He’s very good at analyzing costs and how to get things done. I concentrate more on sales and finance.”
The Shelton brothers both also received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of the state’s highest honors, in 1992.
Shelton. is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sandra Graham Shelton of Charlotte; two children – Mandy Houser and her husband, Todd, and Chip Shelton, all of Charlotte; his brother, Ed Shelton, and his wife, Dotti, of Charlotte; his brother-in-law, Dr. Larry Redmond of Lynchburg, Virginia; five granddaughters and numerous nieces and nephews.
According to his obituary, a celebration of his life will be held when it is safe to gather.
Grapes of Wrath: Determined N.C. vintners show that state farms can grow more than tobacco (May 17, 1999)
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