Open Eye Café

Open Eye Café Expands


Open Eye Café owners Beth Justus and Scott ConaryIt's hard to believe it's been seven years since Beth Justus and Scott Conary opened the doors to Open Eye Café. In that length of time Open Eye really has lived up to the moniker "Carrboro's living room," with comfy couches and chairs and a welcoming ambience in the heart of downtown Carrboro.

On September 24, 2005, the award-winning cafe opened new doors in what was formerly the long time home of Scott Rent-alls, at 101 South Greensboro St., two doors down from their original location.

Their expanded space is only the beginning, "phase one," of big plans for the coffee shop that was started as an alternative to the monster corporate coffee chains that overrun most towns across America. Beth and Scott envisioned something better, and that's just what we got.

The Transformation

Local artisans created the new decor Plenty of folks wondered what was happening behind the long windows covered with paper over the past several months. I poked my head in one day to find Beth on a ladder, chipping away at the layers of paint that covered the front brick wall. I was sworn to secrecy until they were ready to open. There was still a lot of work to be done.

"Will you be open in time for the Music Festival?" I asked.

"That's what we're hoping for," answered Scott.

The concrete floor was broken up to install the new plumbing. This building is old, so not only all of the plumbing, but also the electrical wiring had to be replaced, and heating and air conditioning installed. A portion of the building had been a small engine repair shop, leaving years of grime to be scraped away.

Beth and Scott were not alone in their labor. "It's been a community effort," said Scott.

Talented professional Tim Forbes took care of most details and plenty of help was given by Thomas Nickles and other local contractors. Cleaning & painting parties were attended by the Trailheads, a local running group that calls the Open Eye home, and can now point to different sections of the room with pride of accomplishment.

Local carpenter and craftsman Todd Denzler created the long countertop, stained and covered with many coats of shiny sealant and finished to a smooth amber glow. Brian Plaster constructed the metal structure holding up this massive concrete bar, while Joe Spuria created the copper bar tops and stainless steel sections.

Open Eye has increased its space significantly Small countertops dot various corners around the cafe.

"In Italy they come into a place like this and stand at a counter to drink a quick espresso," said Conary.

"They'll do this 5 or 6 times throughout the course of a day, stopping in just long enough to knock back their drink.

I wanted our customers to have that traditional option, so had these cement counters handcrafted & installed by Todd."

Along with the new decor, Open Eye has a new expanded selection of baked goods. They continue to get all of their freshly baked goods, including bagels, scones, cakes and cookies, from Guglhupf Bakery in Durham.

"Now that we have more space we were able to install a refrigerated case for chilled baked goods. We can also do frozen drinks with ice cream. Our espresso shakes are wonderful. We carry fresh baguettes on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays," said Beth. "We will be offering specialty sandwiches as soon as our new chef arrives."

They continue to expand their other offerings as well, such as whole leaf tea and specialty drinks. Future plans include a thoughtful selection of beer and wine offerings.

"We try to give our customers what they want," said Justus, "and listen to their requests. That's what keeps them coming back."

Carrboro Coffee Company

Scott with the coffee roaster Open Eye's new location offers plenty of room to spread out.

They even had enough space to create their own coffee roasting room. With this addition, the Carrboro Coffee Company was born.

"The beans start out like this," said Beth, showing me the raw green beans.

"We've wanted to be able to roast our own coffee since Broad Street Coffee closed," said Scott.

"Now we can. We have the expert talents of Roastmaster Mark Leatherwood to find the perfect roasts for our coffee. We hope to be able to do coffee roasting demonstrations eventually, like we used to do with the portable roaster Broad Street had. We didn't have room to do it inside at the other location, so we would do it out in front of the store."

Scott and Beth's latest entrepreneurial endeavor insures the freshest coffee you can find around here, with roasting done daily.

Phase Two and more...

The new location offers a lot more space The next phase at Open Eye is finishing off a room to the right of the main space. This area will be eventually be transformed into a classroom area where folks can learn more about coffees & teas, a rentable private meeting or party room, possibly a film screening room, & anything else they decide they'd like to use it for. As always, they will listen to their customers.

The curved "paint samples" walls of the back hallway will wind out to a newly decorated back patio in the grand scheme of things.

There are a couple of smaller areas off of the main space for folks who are looking for a little privacy, little nooks to relax in. New furniture for the new digs is something this duo always has an eye out for.

"Scott and I carried a new chair down from the Thrift Shop just the other day. We had to stop a couple of times along the way," Beth laughed. "We're taking our time to find just the right pieces."

Outside seating will expand in the future, along with other outdoor improvements. Tables and chairs will more than likely run the length of the storefront, as well as the patio area behind the building.

Front view of Open Eye

Community Involvement

Open Eye is a 2nd Friday Art Walk venue, rotating art exhibits on a monthly basis, featuring local and national artists in a variety of mediums. They have also participated in the Carrboro Music Festival every year, serving as one of the most popular venues, this year opening in their new location the day before the event.

Katie Haverly at Open Eye Café during the Carrboro Music Festival That's not the only time they offer performers in this space. Open Eye regularly features musicians who take to the stage, in conjunction with the 2nd. Friday Art Walk and at other times. Poetry events are standard fare for the Open Eye crowd.

Open Eye Café is a frequent contributor to community events, including forums at the Century Center and other Carrboro Recreation and Parks productions. This makes them even bigger winners in our eyes.

Open Eye will go wireless soon. The need is obvious, looking around the room at the open laptops. Electrical outlets are postitioned every few feet around the walls of the café.

coffee beans "We want people to be able to plug in and sit for awhile if they want," said Beth.

We wish Beth and Scott continued success and are grateful for their presence in Carrboro.

As I have said in the past: A coffee break is a terrible thing to waste. Savor it.

Original Open Eye story from 1998

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