A good coffee shop is hard to find. At least in Chapel Hill.

Sure, Open Eye Café is a stone’s throw away in Carrboro, and there’s a Joe Van Gogh down Weaver Dairy Road, and, despite its focus on food, Carolina Coffee Shop still lives up to its name.

But a good coffee shop isn’t defined by its product alone. A good coffee shop feels like an extension of your living room—a place to chat with friends or focus intently on work, where sunlight hits the windowpane as you lean into a book.

Franklin Street didn’t have a good coffee shop in 2015 when I moved to Chapel Hill for school. It was the cusp of a new era, where Targets were being talked of, and Moe’s Southwest Grill bounded into the space beside He’s Not Here and the Yogurt Pump. I could have gone to Carrboro or some of the spots on the edge of town. But first-year students aren’t allowed cars on campus and it took 45 minutes to walk to Carrboro. Franklin Street was all I had. 

And it had nothing. Now it does. 

Epilogue, Franklin Street’s newest business, is a good coffee shop.

The café, chocolatería, and bookstore settled into East Franklin in November. It’s located where FRANK Gallery used to be, memorialized by the fading stickers on the floor that say “Welcome” in different languages. 

Epilogue is what would happen if you blended Cocoa Cinnamon’s Lakewood location and Chapel Hill’s now-closed The Bookshop. You’re welcomed by the content face of a Frida Kahlo mural enveloped by fake flowers carefully glued to her hairline. Faux vines hang from the ceiling. A long communal table directs your eye to a deep green study area in the back, where students have lined the wood tables with laptops and study guides.

And there are books. So many books. 

New books and used books and rare books and children’s books and books wrapped in brown paper that are waiting for the right person to take a chance and go on a blind date with a new story. There are books about children learning to love their afros and books about American impressionists and books with reviews from employees tucked into their jacket sleeves. There are books in Spanish. There are books you can actually afford.

While I was wishing for a community coffee shop, Epilogue owners Jaime and Miranda Sanchez were trying to figure out what the community would do without a downtown bookshop. Flyleaf Books is incredible, but it doesn’t fit the “within walking distance of campus” bill. The Bookshop closed because of spiking Franklin Street rents and virtually no parking. 

Jaime Sanchez says that when it shuttered in 2017, he and his wife knew it was something the community couldn’t be without.

“We had a pretty good grasp of how to develop a retail concept,” says Sanchez, who previously worked in store design and event production. “We just wanted to make sure it was something we loved, and we were passionate about. We wanted to make sure we could give something to the community that it needed.”

You notice that focus on community the longer you linger. The secret books are shelved on a “positivi-tree,” a fake tree covered in words of encouragement. The baristas list their pronouns on their nametags; many are bilingual. The book selection highlights LGBTQ authors, women authors, and authors of color, both in the main selection and in the children’s area. 

In some settings, this could feel gimmicky. At Epilogue, it’s a testament to the diversity of the baristas, the customers, and the products.

You’ll find your typical coffee shop fare—lattes, mochas, etc.—but you can also get variations like lavender sea salt and orange peppercorn. There are European-style sipping chocolates. There are Mexican pastries: Conchas and churros and buñuelos you should add honey to.

In a town that’s seen big business overtake local haunts, Epilogue circles back to the community it’s based in. The coffee and tea come from Carrboro Coffee Roasters. The small alcohol selection comes from Ponysaurus. The crafts and potted plants for sale are made by local artists. There are student group showcases you can track through the store’s social media.

New businesses have growing pains, and Epilogue is no different. The baristas are still getting the hang of everything, the place is going to be hectic during exams, and the specialty drinks can get pricey. 

But in a town that is still struggling to find its community, Epilogue is giving folks a space. Not just a space—a damn good coffee shop. 

Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at spequeno@indyweek.com. 

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