Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen has bought the Wilmoore Cafe, a coffeehouse and sandwich shop owned by David Fowle, a longtime fixture in the Raleigh coffee scene.
The Wilmoore Cafe will stay open until next Friday. Christensen says she will close the restaurant for about six weeks and reopen sometime in March. She plans to keep it as a coffee shop but expand the hours to seven days a week and into the evening. She will offer an expanded menu and a beer, wine and cocktail list. She plans to change the name.
"We're excited," Christensen said Tuesday morning.
Fowle, who owned a coffee shop downtown in the 1990s, explained that his expertise is serving coffee to the business crowd during the week. That business had grown steadily at the Wilmoore Cafe, Fowle said.
But Fowle said Tuesday: "Here's the rub: The property is too valuable to not do nights and weekends. I don't have the expertise, energy or bandwidth to do it properly."
But Christensen does, Fowle said.
"She recognizes what a jewel and potential jewel this place can be," he said.
The deal signed Monday happened organically. Commercial real estate agent Carter Worthy is Fowle's cousin and works with Christensen, who also rents space on the second floor of the building that is home to the Wilmoore Cafe. Christensen was looking at other downtown opportunities and Fowle and Worthy were discussing how to best expand the Wilmoore Cafe into nights and weekends.
"She made an offer we couldn't refuse," Fowle said.
With this purchase, Christensen expands her reach north along Wilmington Street. She already owns Chuck's, a burger joint, Beasley's Chicken + Honey, a fried chicken spot, and Fox Liquor Bar. All three are located in the same building at the corner of Wilmington and Martin streets in downtown Raleigh. She also owns Poole's Diner, a finer dining spot, on South McDowell St.
Fowle said he is going to enjoy his time off, take his teenage daughter on some college visits and then get a job.
(Get over there before next Friday to say goodbye to Fowle and be sure to buy one of his chocolate chip cookies. I consider them to be the best in the Triangle.)