Google Fiber continues to move forward, with free service planned for some low income housing

As the Google Fiber rollout continues throughout the Triangle, there’s something new to get excited about: Obama’s bringing free Internet to some low income residents in Durham. WUNC says that the Goog will be offering up its service gratis to some 2000 households (presumably funded by the Federal program).

Although that’s pretty great, it’s maybe not as big a deal as it seems at first blush: keep in mind that Google Fiber already has a free tier that anybody in their service area can take advantage of. The “gotcha” there is the $300 installation fee, which is presumably what’s being waived as part of the announced program.

In other fiber news, do you remember RST “Fiber,” the supposed competitor to Google Fiber which started making big claims last year? Well, Wake Forest has apparently gotten tired of waiting and kicked them to the curb.

Oh, and one final Internet note: if you’re on TWC, you might want to reboot your modem to see if you have better speeds. At the end of June they finally disabled all of their analogue and ClearQAM channels, but at the same time they apparently started rolling out free account upgrades too. If nothing else maybe it’ll make the wait for Google Fiber a little more bearable.

The Durham Co-Op Market is OPEN

Although construction was delayed due to all the winter weather, opening day has finally arrived for the Durham Co-Op Market. IMG_20150318_083717

Here are a couple of panoramas (click to embiggen).





I didn’t need much, but I definitely needed this: IMG_20150318_084827 The interior of the store is nice, with a lot of light coming in from those windows. It’s not a big store – I feel like it’s a bit smaller than the 9th St Whole Foods original size – but they’ve got most of what you’d expect (including a prepared food counter, coffee shop, and a deli). Prices seem to be about in line with Whole Foods.

It’s also a great place to stalk local radio personality Frank Stasio, who was making the rounds when I stopped by.

I’ve posted about the DCM a few times, and it’s really exciting to see the project come to fruition. The building is located at 1111 West Chapel Hill St. (at the intersection of Kent and WCH, near the cemetery).

The Durham Living Wage project aims to improve pay for low income earners

The People’s Alliance Fund (which is apparently related to but independent from the Durham People’s Alliance PAC) has founded the Durham Living Wage initiative to increase the pay of traditionally low income workers.

According to the Herald, they’ve got 28 businesses on board. I can’t find the full list yet, but they dropped some names you’re probably familiar with: Monuts, Fullsteam, Cocoa Cinnamon, etc. The criterion for being a member is:

Our living wage rate is tied to the livable wage rate of Durham County and the City of Durham, which is updated annually. Our 2015 wage rate is $12.33 / hour for individuals without employer-provided health insurance or $10.83 / hour for employees with employer-provided health insurance, or employees reimbursed for at least 50% of their cost of health insurance.

The fund is currently raising money to support the project.

I imagine it’s a difficult line to walk: trying to keep overhead low enough to survive in a competitive industry, while also trying to maximise the benefit you pass on to your employees. I’m reminded of an interview with Monuts co-founder Lindsay Moriarty in the Duke Chronicle in which she discusses (among other things) trying to grow a small business while keeping the well-being of employees in mind from the beginning.

The Durham Fresh Market is now open!

I mentioned The Fresh Market briefly before, and now I’ll mention it briefly again: according to the Herald, the store is open for business:

The 23,400 square-foot store opened in Parkway Plaza Wednesday morning with a variety of activities, including chef demonstrations, food samplings, coffee giveaways and drawings for gift cards.

Parkway Plaza is the shopping center off University near MLK, one block south of the Super Target (which is on the former site of South Square Mall). The Fresh Market promises to be the new anchor for the strip mall, which fell upon somewhat hard times following the loss of its anchors Food Lion and K-Mart.

I can’t find any mention of the opening on The Fresh Market’s own web site, and I’ve seen coverage only in the Herald-Sun so far, so I don’t know if they’re operating at full capacity / hours yet. If you get a chance to check it out, let me know about your experiences in the comments section.

Durham’s grocery store situation seems to really be on the upswing; this is at least the third grocery store to open since last fall (along with the Ninth Street Teeter and Compare Foods on Miami). The Durham Co-Op Market on West Chapel Hill St. is also slated to open in January.

The Monuts soft (re)opening was last night!

It’s no secret that Lindsay and Rob have been preparing to move Monuts into the old Magnolia Grill building, but it caught me a bit off guard when they closed down their Parrish Street location two weeks ago. Unable to get my sugar fix, the knowledge that Monuts would be back again some day in December was cold comfort.

Well, here it is:

Yeah, crappy cell phone shot, but you can see the bar (and a very small part of the massive line).

They sprung the news of last night’s soft opening on Facebook only a couple of hours before service started at 5, but by the time we got there the line wrapped all around the bar and almost out the door. Right after we placed our orders, they shut down ordering for 20 minutes to catch up. Good timing I guess – or maybe the kid bouncing off the walls caused them to take pity upon us. We grabbed a seat and the food came out about 30 minutes later, which was honestly pretty impressive considering how busy they were.

I’m no foodie, but I know what I like, and I like Monuts. We grabbed a chocolate donut right away to appease the kid, and it was the typical delicious fare we’ve come to know and love from Monuts Uno. A big addition to the new location is a full dinner menu, which we took advantage of; we tried the beet and arugula salad, the chilaquiles, the curly fries, and the fried chicken with lentils. It was all pretty excellent.

Given how packed it was and how early it is I’m not really sure of how the restaurant is going to “feel” yet. I have a sense they’re angling for sort of a BCBB / Pompieri vibe; you order and pay at the counter, take a number (well, dinosaur), sit down at a table, and they bring the food out to you. The seating is also similar: booths, benches, long “family style” shared tables, and even the beginnings of a small kids’ nook in the corner. The bar is obviously front and center, which seems to really invite its usage.

This is the first time I’ve stepped into this building in years, and it’s really good to see it brought back to life again. Downtown won’t be quite the same now, but I suspect Monuts will do well in its new home.

Ponysaurus is about to upgrade from nano to micro

The so-called “nanobrewery,” which has been operating out of the Cookery, has plans to open a home of its own. Given its limited production capacity, Ponysaurus has so far mostly been sold through local restaurants and at special events. This new facility will enable them to dramatically expand their market to include cans sold at retail.

Conceptually the facility sounds similar to the venerable Fullsteam, as it will include a bar and social space attached to the brewery itself.

The brewery will be located on the corner of Hood and Ramseur, which I assume places it in the brick garage on the southeast side of the intersection. Ponysaurus will be one block away from Bull City Ciderworks, but I guess they don’t need to worry about competition for long; the bulldozers will be coming for Bull City Ciderworks as soon as DPD HQ construction gets moving.

I just want to take a moment here to point out how unfortunate it is that the Council has deemed this area unworthy of salvation. Their thirst for urban renewal threatens to tank an area that was ripe for creative re-use and revitalization, as evidenced by new businesses springing up rapidly. It’s a shame that the city couldn’t have found a less disruptive place to put its shiny new government building.

Blue Coffee’s Kickstarter has been funded

It came down to the final day; with almost $10k left to raise as of yesterday morning, things were pretty tight, and the projections on Kicktraq weren’t looking good. Some very large contributors managed to send the project over the top in the final hours, and by the end of the day they squeaked by with $1600 to spare.

Best of luck to Gwen Mathews and Blue Coffee in the new location on Church St. It’s not quite as prominent as the old home in the Jack Tar, but given the way downtown is growing I expect more and more foot traffic headed that way in the coming months and years.

Blue Coffee launches kickstarter campaign

Blue Coffee has been a downtown anchor since before it was even remotely cool to be downtown, but now their home in the Jack Tar is being renovated and upscal-ified by Austin Lawrence Partners. They’re going to have to move, and they’ve launched a Kickstarter to help.

The new location is at the corner of Church and Main, and crowdfunding proceeds would go to renovating the space. Unlike some other campaigns, Blue Coffee has been upfront about how they’ll use the money, and they’ve got a proven track record of success; I’d buy with confidence on this one.

Right now they still need about $22k of their $35k goal. You’ve got until November 24 to contribute, and I’d recommend getting the word out, because it looks like it’ll go down to the wire.

Indy Week has some additional details, if you’re interested.

Stay and Play Snack Cafe is shutting down

At this rate I’m going to need a depressing segment called “Cafe Closing Corner” or something, because yet another downtown cafe is shutting down:

Since Stay & Play is a young, family business with tight margins, the cost increase means the café will be priced out of its current location.

The original owners of the cafe were hoping to sell the business so they could focus on their growing family, but a rent increase seems to have priced the business out of its current location. You might remember that Stay and Play launched following a successful kickstarter back in 2012.

The business actually had (from my perspective) a really cool concept: it was part coffee shop, part playroom, and it was a pretty great place to take your small kids to get a moment’s respite from the chaos. It’ll be missed.

I really feel like downtown is lacking in spaces for young children. There are a few oases: The Parlour, BCBB, and Pompieri are all very kid friendly, but you can’t spend your entire day eating; there just aren’t many places for the kids to play. The Fun Zone, another kid oriented downtown business, also shut down recently (last year?).

2015 Art of Cool Kickstarter ends today, still needs funding

If you missed it in the most recent DNO&E, The Art of Cool Festival is holding another Kickstarter to fund the jazz festival’s second year in Durham.

The current Kickstarter project is seeking $35,000 – up $10,000 from the first year – and they’ve got about $3000 to go at the time of this writing. Even if you don’t dig jazz, it’s a pretty neat event, and hey, you can score a sweet poster or buttons or something if you back it.