Eight years after its 2015 launch, Homebucha is having a full circle moment: the kombucha brewer will soon open a taproom within eyeshot of Joe’s Diner, the East Durham commissary kitchen that first housed the commercial production of its herbaceous fizzy drinks.
For Homebucha owner Grant Ruhlman—who launch, after outgrowing Joe’s Diner in 2018, shifted operations to a larger Geer Street space that is now set to become an auxiliary classroom for Central Park School for Children, requiring Homebucha to relocate—the return to old stomping grounds is a coincidental, albeit poetic, result of a dogged endeavor to keep Homebucha based in the Bull City.
“As far as getting kicked out of the Geer Street space, we were given six months’ notice, which I think is fair,” says Ruhlman, whose product has become a fixture at the Durham Farmers’ Market and on Triangle restaurant menus. “It warms my heart that there’ll be students in there, learning and making art, as opposed to, you know, a Starbucks or something. But it’s a challenging time to be looking for small commercial space in Durham.”
After months of searching, he landed on a location that seemed promising. Then it fell through. Every subsequent vacant spot he came across was too expensive.
“It was really sad to me,” Ruhlman says. “I live in Durham. This is my community. This is the town that has supported the brand and allowed us to grow. The business is profitable and doing well. Even with all that, it was like, gosh, we can’t find a place to operate here.”
Time was running out; Homebucha wholesales kombucha to more than fifty vendors in the Triangle, so pausing production wasn’t an option. Resigned, Ruhlman decided to move the business to a space in Hillsborough.
Three days before he was supposed to sign the Hillsborough lease, though, he made an eleventh-hour call to an East Durham landlord he’d spoken with previously.
“I just got this feeling,” Ruhlman says.
Sure enough, a tenant had just backed out of a lease for a 1500 square foot space on Driver Street. Ruhlman jumped on it.
Production in the new location started this week and the taproom will open to the public in August, around the same time that other incoming East Durham businesses, like Congress and Mike D’s BBQ, plan to open their doors.
Homebucha’s taproom will have capacity for about twenty customers, with frontal bar seating and a standing room bar along the wall. Ruhlman envisions the taproom as a “warm and welcoming spot” where people “can gather in a spirit-free environment.”
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