Carolina Coffee Shop stays on Franklin Street with help of UNC graduates and US Soccer Olympian

Original Article in Daily Tar Heel

When a group of UNC graduates heard the Carolina Coffee Shop might have to close, they invested in the restaurant in the hopes of preserving a well-established staple on Franklin Street. 

This past summer, the Carolina Coffee Shop came under new ownership by a group of UNC graduate investors, including soccer Olympian Heather O’Reilly.

“None of us have restaurant experience, but we are certainly all-hands-on-deck learning as we go in this next new and exciting endeavor in all of our lives,” she said.

UNC graduates Jeff Hortman and Clay Schossow said the group had already been friends for a long time before deciding to invest.  

“Everyone had some memory of (the Carolina Coffee Shop) too, so it’s interesting that that was the connective tissue among all of us,” Schossow said.

Changes have already been implemented in the coffee shop. On an aesthetic level, the floors, lights and hanging décor have been altered to reflect a more historic vibe, a feature the three-time gold medalist said is important to new ownership.

“We definitely want to preserve the sort of feel and history of the bones of this place,” O’Reilly said. “We certainly want to make it clear to students and the town that this is a place where you can come, eat, (have) coffee, meet up and study. We just want to be a meeting place that’s open to a lot of different things for the people of Chapel Hill.”

Despite all of the aesthetic changes, one thing will be staying the same,

“In terms of the name, it’s been around for a long time and we don’t want to change that,” O’Reilly said.

The group decided to invest partly because Carolina Coffee Shop has been an integral part of people's UNC experience. She said businesses on Franklin Street are central to the community.

The group of investors heard about the opportunity to buy the Carolina Coffee Shop, but it took some time before they chose to do so, O'Reilly said. After a couple of months and email exchanges, they were sold on the idea.

“It was definitely a thoughtful approach to ownership and we’re so excited we decided to do it,” O’Reilly said.

By the time O’Reilly graduated in 2006, she had already played on the U.S. Women’s National Team and had won an Olympic gold medal. Along with playing for the UNC women’s soccer team, O’Reilly said she remembers spending her weekends as an undergraduate student eating breakfast at the Carolina Coffee Shop.

“It’s in such a great location here on Franklin Street and I think that when you close your eyes and imagine Franklin Street, you imagine it with a Carolina Coffee Shop,” O’Reilly said. “I have that etched in my mind as a staple of the town and the street.”

Alex Pomer, another investor in the group, said he remembers eating lunch and going to the bar. He said the decision to invest has been a surreal experience because his mom is a UNC graduate and they both have fond memories of the restaurant.

O’Reilly said hearing stories of proposals and first dates at the establishment made her realize the sentimental value of Carolina Coffee Shop. She said her and the other owners feel pride that they're preserving the shop after hearing how it continued in significant times of American history.

The group of investors plan on keeping the restaurant around for awhile. The Carolina Coffee Shop will turn 100 years old in 2022, and the new owners said there will be a celebration for that event.

“We have a lot to celebrate in 2022 and we’re excited to keep this place alive for the next 100 years,” O’Reilly said.


The Carolina Coffee Shop is staying among friends

Original Article in News & Observer


The century mark appears secure for the Carolina Coffee Shop.

Last month, a group of investors bought the Franklin Street institution, which had been on the market since spring, with each carrying their own affections for the tiled floors and wooden booths that countless University of North Carolina students identify with their college years.

“We all have memories of going to the coffee shop,” Jeff Hortman, one of the new owners, said of the investment group. “Close friends got engaged there, had their first date there. You don’t have to dig in too far to come up with something meaningful connected to the coffee shop.”

Hortman declined to reveal the purchase price.

Hortman graduated in 2006 as a second-generation UNC student. Before him, his parents made their own memories in the coffee shop from their time on campus. He moved back to Chapel Hill a year ago after time in Los Angeles and New York working in the film industry and as a management consultant. Among the other investors are UNC soccer legend Heather O’Reilly and her husband David Werry, a former UNC lacrosse player; and Sarada and Clay Schossow, who co-founded Carrborro-based tech company New Media Campaigns.

“This is just a treasure of the Carolina community,” Hortman said. “A close circle of friends was interested in making sure this institution was going to be able to live on. ... This emerged as a really great thing for us to do. We’re all from the Carolina community and see this investment as giving back to the community.”

A historical marker outside the 95-year-old Carolina Coffee Shop proclaims it to be the oldest restaurant in Chapel Hill still operating in its original location. It’s been a soda shop, partial university post office and classic small town restaurant.

The new owners took over June 30, and things have mostly been business as usual. But small and large changes are on the way for the 2,854-foot-space. Before school starts in the fall, Hortman expects to close for a few days to put in new flooring and update the coffee shop’s lighting and wall decor. He said they’re also negotiating sidewalk space with the town to possibly add some new outdoor seating. The menu will be pared down a bit as well.

“We’ll keep most of what’s been there, but it’s kind of a large menu, so we’ll probably be trimming it down,” Hortman said. “We’ll introduce a few new dishes, potentially some healthier breakfast options. Dinner has been down for the past few years so that will be a focus as well. But we’re committed to modern Southern cuisine.”

The coffee shop will close for one or two weeks over the winter break, Hortman said, as the restaurant looks into opening up its front windows and possibly taking out the drop ceiling, adding a few more feet of height to the dining room.

“We want to brighten it up and make it more inviting,” Hortman said.

Hortman said this the new owners’ first foray into restaurant ownership, but they’ve found the coffee shop is important to a lot of different people, many interested in contributing to its survival. They’ve gleaned wisdom from dozens of restauranteurs and developers from Chapel Hill to New York, Hortman said, and leaned on the coffee shop’s existing staff to keep things going.

“All you have to say is ‘Carolina Coffee Shop’ and everyone has a memory and wants to help,” Hortman said. “Even locally, it’s not competitive; everyone wants to see this win and flourish.”

The Carolina Coffee Shop will turn 100 in 2022, and its next century might be even harder than its last one. Franklin Street sees ribbon cuttings and shutterings on a regular basis as development turns a college town into a small city. Hortman said they’re excited to usher an important piece of Chapel Hill’s past into its booming future.

“Any institution going this long has to continually reinvent itself but hold on to the core of what makes it special,” Hortman. “We take this pretty seriously and are committed to making the right changes. Bringing modern comfort but balancing that with with charm and old school atmosphere.”

Drew Jackson: 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson

Washington Post: There’s more in Chapel Hill than the Tar Heels, a family finds

We were proud to be featured in the Washington Post on their list of things to do in Chapel Hill.  The original article is here, and you can see their list below:


Where to stay

The Carolina Inn
211 Pittsboro St.
Lovely historical hotel on campus that manages to be thoroughly Southern, but not fussy. Rooms start at around $169 per night.

The Franklin
311 W. Franklin St.
It may not have the Carolina Inn’s pedigree, but the Franklin’s charming, welcoming staff makes this Curio by Hilton hotel feel like home every visit. Rooms start at around $189 per night.

Where to eat

Crossroads Chapel Hill in the Carolina Inn
211 Pittsboro St.
A modern approach to Southern cooking by native North Carolinian and UNC alum chef Brandon Sharp emphasizes local ingredients. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner entrees start at around $14.

The Pig
630 Weaver Dairy Rd.
No mere BBJ joint grub, the Pig’s surprisingly broad menu features house-made hot dogs and bologna, and country-fried tofu and barbecue tempeh. Pork comes from local, hormone-free, pasture-raised hogs. Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday. Sandwiches start at around $6.

Elaine’s on Franklin
454 W. Franklin St.
New American cooking, in cozy, relaxed digs. Open daily for dinner. Closed Sunday and Monday. Entrees start at around $28.

423 W. Franklin St.
Eclectic Asian-influenced cooking emphasizing local ingredients. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday. Entrees start at around $25.

Carolina Coffee Shop
138 E. Franklin St.
A prime hangout that emphasizes breakfast. Also open daily for lunch, dinner and alcoholic drinks. Hours change with seasons. Breakfast specials start at around $8.

Yogurt Pump
106 W. Franklin St.
A non-chain frozen yogurt shop that’s a local institution. Flavors change daily. Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday, noon to 11:30 p.m. Small servings of frozen yogurt start at around $3.

Mediterranean Deli
410 W. Franklin St.
Good, inexpensive Middle East and Mediterranean dishes served in cafeteria-style restaurant and deli. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Meals start at around $7.

The Crunkleton
320 W. Franklin St.
A window bench and mission-style leather furniture, expertly made cocktails and big selection of whiskeys are just some of what makes this such a convivial, comfy bar for grown-ups and students alike. Open daily, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Cocktails start at around $12.

What to do
The Carolina Basketball Museum
450 Skipper Bowles Dr.
Shrine to Tar Heel basketball. Open Monday through Friday, 
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday,
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.

Morehead Planetariumand Science Center
250 E. Franklin St.
All manner of planetarium shows available. Visitors include U.S. astronauts training in celestial navigation for Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. Open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Planetarium show tickets for adults cost $7.68; for children, students and senior citizens, they cost $6.51.

Coker Arboretum
399 E. Cameron Ave.
A five-acre botanical oasis in the middle of an already verdant campus.
Open daily, dawn to dusk, free.