Courtney Brown, a self-proclaimed displaced Floridian and caffeine lover, waited patiently for the perfect location to open a coffee shop. As a Duke alumnus, Brown was familiar with downtown Durham and knew the Brightleaf shopping district needed one.
The Respite Cafe is scheduled to open this month.
“Without knowing anything about the building’s history, I knew I loved its character well before I took over the lease,” Brown says. “As I learned more about the building and its history, I grew to feel more and more that it was a great fit.”
Constructed in 1929, the building still contains reminders of its past, such as the Studebaker decal that has been affixed to the facade for more 50 years. Brown wants to continue the building’s character and charm on the inside.
“It’s going to have a 1920s vibe with a modern touch. I’m trying to keep as much of the original parts of the building as possible,” Brown says, pointing to the vintage black and white checkerboard floors.
The cafe features products from local vendors, including Cafe Prost, a mobile bakery specializing in German pretzels, and Whoopie Squares, a gourmet snack shop based in Durham.
“It’s really all about helping the local economy,” Brown says.
What Brown says distinguishes Respite from other Durham cafes is its selection of 15–20 loose-leaf teas, including white, green, black mate and chai.
While Starbucks is raising its prices, Respite is aiming to be competitively priced. The typical cost of a specialty drink and pastry will be $5.
In addition to its food, coffee and teas, Respite is also a gathering place, a living room for the community, Brown says. “We are going to have games, private rooms, and comfy couches. I want a visit here to be a comfortable break from your day where you can be a part of the community.”
Saltz is an intern at the Independent Weekly.