Cary begins renovations on downtown Jones House

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 12, 2013 

— Windows are broken, paint is peeling, and there’s no front-door step, but the Jones House is expected to be completely renovated by January and open for business by February.

The downtown project is moving forward, though, without Muddy Dog Roasting Co., which was expected to occupy the space, along with the Sweet T dessert shop.

Together, Morrisville-based Muddy Dog and Sweet T had planned to share the roughly $100,000 cost of laying new floors, fixing up the bathrooms and equipping the kitchen in the Jones House, a historic home on the corner of Dry Avenue and Academy Street.

But Muddy Dog backed out.

“I didn’t think it was prudent for us to be investing in real estate we won’t own,” said Jim Pellegrini, Muddy Dog’s owner.

The change isn’t a big deal, said Tammy Calaway-Harper, owner of Sweet T. The cafe, which will be called The Jones House, will still sell Muddy Dog coffee, she said.

“It’s hard not to be excited when someone hands you such a wonderful, unique opportunity,” she said.

In August, the Cary Town Council approved a five-year lease for Sweet T and Muddy Dog to occupy the home for $26,292 a year.

Cary’s role as landlord is unique to the Jones House. The town bought the property in 2011 and is spending $255,000 to renovate it in hopes that a new business across from the Cary Arts Center will generate buzz downtown.

Originally, Larry’s Beans, a Raleigh coffee roaster, planned to move into the space, but plans fell through.

Renovation efforts began in earnest at the end of September, when construction crews peeled back aluminum siding to reveal the 123-year-old building’s wood exterior. And, despite the recent rain, construction is on schedule partly because crews found no termites or unexpected damage beneath the old aluminum siding.

“It was a small victory,” said Phillip Smith, planning manager for Cary. “We were halfway expecting some surprises, but there weren’t any.”

When the business opens early next year, Calaway-Harper imagines commuters stopping by for a cup of coffee in the morning, locals swinging by for a light lunch and diners coming by at night for a meal or a glass of wine.

At least 80 percent of the cafe’s offerings will come from local farms, and Calaway-Harper wants to serve local beers such as Fortnight and Fullsteam. The menu will change seasonally.

From the western corner of Dry and Academy , it’s easy to see why espresso sippers and wine swillers might want to take root on the Jones House porch. But from the front porch, where glass covers the floor and wasp nests hang from the ceiling, it might be tough to imagine a downtown hotspot emerging within the next four months.

“I know it looks like there’s a lot of work, but (construction crews) have gotten to the point where they’ve got the easier stuff to do,” Calaway-Harper said.

Then comes the hard part – opening a small business.

“As long as we’re accepted by the community, everything else will be all right,” she said.


Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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