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Cary, NC — After a series of delays, owner Tammy Calaway-Harper states that her restaurant, Belle, will be opening in early August in the renovated Jones House on South Academy.
The restaurant project is a partnership between the Town of Cary (who purchased the house in 2011) and Calaway-Harper. The town held an open call for business proposals for the building back in march 2012. Much has changed since that first proposal was approved, when Larry’s Beans was going to open a coffee shop.
After that initial partner backed out, the town approached Tammy, who owns a successful bakery business called Sweet T Cakery. She currently sells her baked goods at the Raleigh and The Western Wake Farmers Markets, and has a booming custom order business. The plan was to partner with another local coffee roaster and open up a coffee shop/ bakery.
Tammy says she’s been baking since she was three with her mother and grandmother. She started her Sweet T Cakery business about 7 years ago after a divorce, when she felt she wanted to do something that made her happy. She left her marketing IT job to do this and hasn’t looked back. But the bakery has grown and now its a “natural progression to move into the restaurant business. Its time to expand.”
Tammy said as she worked the numbers on the coffee shop concept, she became worried the restaurant wouldn’t make money. And after the second coffee partner backed out during a series of construction and approval delays, she came up with the idea for a “farm to table” restaurant that the Town really got behind.
Her background includes growing up on a farm in Southern Ohio where she says she learned to cook beside her beloved grandmother, Belle, for whom the restaurant will now be named.
Tammy added she wanted something simple for the name, and to start with a “clean slate” for the location with the long name (the historic connotation is the Jones-Foy House).
Her excitement is palpable as she describes what the restaurant will offer.
She prides herself on the partnerships and connections she has forged in the area, stating that smaller farmers are more willing to take a chance and plant something special. She is sourcing sustainable and organic produce and meats wherever possible, and 80% of foods will be sourced from within a 30 mile radius (fish will come from the NC coast).
As the project proceeded, there have been plenty of delays, from the original Christmas-time opening date.
Recently, it was discovered that the painting for the exterior was sub-par and will be redone at a cost to the contractor. It also turned out the roof is leaky and was found to be so rusty that in a heavy wind it might actually fly off. A new metal roof should be installed next week, paid for by the town from unused Downtown funds.
For naysayers who think Calloway has had a free ride from the town on this project, she states that she has invested $100,000 of her own capital on interior design, restaurant equipment, lighting and furniture.
She added that she “has all the faith in the Town and we have a wonderful working relationship…You just have to be patient.”
Another 140 Years
She has been a stickler for construction that will stand the test of time. The building had exhibited much water damage due to lack of a tenant, a leaky roof and lack of gutters or flashing. When walls were opened, mold and rotted wood were often found, and she continues to battle with leaks.
Knowing the age of the building, she also got a variance to change the metal flashing behind the stove to tile, which she installed after insisting the walls be sealed properly. Her fear? That a continuous hot oven would catch the walls on fire one day.
“I want this house to see another 140 years”, she added.
The house dates from the late 1880′s.
Many have wondered about the wood pile out front. Did it come from the interior? No.
Tammy says it was wood she purchased from the Angus Barn, that had been reclaimed. She has used it in a number of ways to make the interior a bit more farmhouse-like and eclectic. Her tables will be constructed from it, the bar was fashioned from it and there are pieces used in the bakery area.
The balance will be hauled away this week.
The restaurant will seat about 60-64. The porch will have seating with small 2 person tables. A patio will eventually be added for additional outdoor seating. Meandering pathways through the garden are planned. The outdoor areas may get built as the Town’s park project proceeds and be worked on in unison.
There’s a full bar, managed by April Schlanger, the previous owner of Sip..A Wine Store. Signature fresh cocktails are in the works. Her bakery will be incorporated into the restaurant. There will be monthly menus based on local availability of ingredients. Tammy said, “It’s our goal to provide a unique dining destination for residents of the Triangle, while supporting local sustainable farming.” Coffee is locally roasted from Carrboro Coffee, and baked goods will be created on-site.
Looking for a coffee place downtown? Coffee and bakery items will be available through the day, and into lunch. The restaurant will close mid afternoon to regroup and prepare for dinner. Dinner will start service at 5 and continue til 9:00 during the week and later on weekends.
Look for classes and demonstrations on pickling, preserving and baking, as well as chef dinners and wine events.
After months of anticipation, Downtown will add another new destination in a few short weeks. CaryCitizen is excited to report on new development in our Downtown area. See other Downtown stories.