Cakes, coffee on deck for Cary-owned Jones House

akenney@newsobserver.comAugust 2, 2013 

— The town has a new business lined up for the historic house near the Cary Arts Center.

While Cary originally intended to bring Larry’s Beans to the town-owned Jones House, it now is considering a lease with the owners of the Sweet T “cakery” and of Muddy Dog Roasting Co.

The new business, to be called The Jones House, could open later this year.

The Cary Town Council is set to consider the five-year lease on Thursday.

Under the proposed deal, Tammy Calaway-Harper, of Sweet T, and Jim Pellegrini, of Muddy Dog, would open a combination bakery, restaurant and coffee bar in the century-old building.

They would pay the town about $2,200 per month for the building’s 1,900 square feet of usable interior space and a 300-square-foot porch.

The move would be an upgrade for both businesses. Both rely heavily on farmers markets and other businesses to sell their goods, and their respective owners have long envisioned a project like The Jones House.

For Calaway-Harper of Cary, that vision has proved pretty accurate – right down to its setting.

“I’ve loved the Jones House for years. I used to drive past it years ago, when we first moved here,” she said. “I’ve always dreamed of doing something there.”

She even looked at the lot when it went up for sale several years ago, but she found it needed too much work.

Instead, the Cary town government bought the property in 2011, hoping to make it more appealing for a small business.

Early plan fell through

At first, it appeared the town’s partner would be Larry’s Beans, a popular Raleigh coffee roaster. Larry Larson, the company’s owner, planned to install a coffee shop that would also serve beer and light meals.

That plan apparently faltered as early as February. That’s when Cary town staff first approached Calaway-Harper about the property.

Ed Gawf, Cary’s downtown development consultant, was searching for a tenant to replace Larry’s Beans. Delays in preparing the building and plans had scrambled the company’s preparations for the project, leaving it out of position when the town was ready to move.

“I had talked to Larry. I said I couldn’t wait, and if his plans changed I would go back with him,” Gawf said.

Now, though, the project at last appears ready to proceed. The town already has launched into a $255,000 renovation of the property; over the next three months, a contractor will peel back aluminum siding to reveal the 123-year-old building’s wooden exterior.

The town also will pay to polish up the roof, expand interior rooms, open fireplaces, restore the trim and install a basic lighting package, while putting in a grease trap and stove vent to serve the restaurant.

If all goes well, customers could be tucking into pastries and guzzling coffee before Thanksgiving.

Calaway-Harper, a mother of three, is confident the business will impress.

“My coconut cake,” she said, “is absolutely the most amazing thing you’ll ever eat in your life.”

Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary

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