At first glance, Epilogue seems like a comfier version of a college town coffee shop: a storefront filled with millennials perched at tables or draped over chairs, a steaming cup in hand and eyes glued to a screen.
But walking toward the bar to order, you notice the glass case of freshly baked cookies, churros and other Mexican pastries to go with the coffee, tea and beer.
And then, as you’re carrying your order toward the back of the store to the couches and overstuffed chairs, you notice the bookshelves lining the walls. Niya Patel, the store’s lead bookseller and a junior at UNC, will hear patrons exclaim, “You have books!”
Epilogue is the first bookstore in the heart of downtown on East Franklin Street since the Intimate Bookshop closed 20 years ago.
“That kind of store is key to a downtown,” said Jaime Sanchez, who owns Epilogue with this wife, Miranda. “It brings the community together.”
Miranda, a freelance writer, brings the bookish element to the business.
Epilogue’s shelves hold an eclectic collection, including a section of antique books with thick, feathery-edged pages and cloth-covered spines. Many have been donated by locals. Almost any book in the store sells for about $10. “We’re going to focus on small publishers and more independent presses, rather than the big blockbusters, and local authors,” Miranda said.
The emphasis on local connections carries over to the beverages and other treats. Carrboro Coffee Roasters supplies both the coffee beans and the bases for the teas.The beer is brewed at Ponysaurus in Durham and imported to Chapel Hill.
Then there’s the chocolate — sippable, dippable or baked in a cookie. Drinkable chocolate is part of Jaime’s heritage. When he was growing up in Mexico, he and his family often went out for a breakfast of chocolate and churros, fried dough coated with cinnamon and sugar.
At Epilogue, Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh supplies the chocolate base for a number of the shop’s recipes, while Escazu, also of Raleigh, provides the cacao nibs and shells for cocoa tea and cocoa tea-based drinks. There are also chocolate bars from those chocolatiers and Black Mountain Chocolate Factory of Winston-Salem. The Sanchezes say it’s part of their commitment to supporting the local economy.
“We’re making sure we’re a positive addition to the community,” Jaime said.
109 E. Franklin St., Suite 100| epiloguebookcafe.com
— Nancy E. Oates
Gizmo Brew Works had not even scheduled its grand opening when a couple stopped in to ask about holding their wedding in the space that’s well known to generations of students, alumni and townspeople.
In a subterranean alley off East Franklin Street, it had housed the iconic Ramshead Rathskeller restaurant until it closed in 2007. Over six decades “The Rat” had attracted diners with its famously sloppy bowls of cheesy lasagna and strips of steak still sizzling on cast-iron skillets. The cave-like space exuded coziness with dim lighting and a ceiling so low it threatened the noggins of all but the shortest diners as they wended their way through its passages to their tables.
Gizmo — which began pouring drinks in a soft opening before the holidays — welcomes those who want to reminisce and see what has finally become of the place that had sat empty since the Rathskeller’s closing.
“People come in because they’re curious,” said taproom manager Cynthia Burkins, “and stay because they have a really good time.”
However, Gizmo has no intention of becoming a replica Rathskeller. For one thing, the new taproom has plenty of light — including a whole wall of windows, albeit with a view of the underground alley — and greater ceiling clearance, which came from digging down 2 feet below the original floor.
Also, Gizmo has no kitchen. Its food comes from three downtown restaurants. Order with the bartender from the menus of Bandido’s Mexican Cafe, located just across Amber Alley; The Pizza Press, on West Franklin Street; or Imbibe Cajun Kitchen, on Henderson Street.
Beer will be Gizmo’s focus. Co-owners Joe Walton and Bryan Williams opened their original Gizmo brewery in Raleigh seven years ago. They looked for a second location and found it last year in the former Rathskeller locale. The Chapel Hill building’s landlord had renovated the 4,500-square-foot space to meet code (hence the lowered floor to increase the ceiling height). Walton and Williams signed a lease and spent several months upfitting the place with a stage, a bar and an urban-industrial ambience, highlighted by a glowing wall of beer cans.
Gizmo brews some 50 varieties of small-batch beer in Raleigh and trucks them to Chapel Hill. The taproom also serves wine, cider and cocktails. It has the ability to can beer on site, so patrons can select an on-tap brew and have it canned on the spot — 32 ounces of fresh beer to go.
Gizmo aims to be kid- and dog-friendly, as long as both bring their drinking-age guardians. The half-dozen TVs can be tuned to different channels and are small enough to avoid competing with one another if patrons are watching different games. The owners have plans for live music and an open-mic night, as well as a weekly trivia night and, once the weather warms up, events on top of the nearby Wallace Parking Deck. The manager is open to hosting benefit nights for nonprofits, too.
“We don’t want to be just another taproom in Chapel Hill,” Burkins said. “We want to be part of the community.”
157 E. Franklin St. | gizmobrewworks.com
— Nancy E. Oates
The former Pazzo space in Southern Village has been purchased by Annie Johnston ’13, owner of La Vita Dolce gelato shop down the block. For 16 years, Pazzo, which closed in December, offered a casual pizzeria in the front of the house and a more upscale Italian menu in the rear dining room. Johnston expects to open Market & Moss in the spring with a seasonal menu of New American cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. 700 Market St. ■ After the death last fall of her mother, Glenda Keenan, Suzie Keenan closed their Olio & Aceto cafe, saying it was too much for her to run by herself with their other business in the same South Elliott Road shopping center, Blue Sky Oil & Vinegar. Now she’s closing that one also: “I hoped that I would love it as much without her around, [but] it was too difficult to be here every day without her being here, too.” Blue Sky began a closing sale Jan. 31 to run until it sold off its merchandise and fixtures. blueskyoilandvinegar.com ■ All three Al’s Burger Shacks (West Franklin, Southern Village, Governors Village) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January but remained open while owner Al Bowers ’88 reorganizes the debt. alsburgershack.com ■ Don Chicken, a Mexican restaurant in Elliott Square, has not closed. It just has a new name: Monterrey Tacos & Burritos. 237 S. Elliott Road ■ Likewise, the PTA Thrift Shop, with locations on Main Street in Carrboro and South Elliott Road in Chapel Hill, has changed its name to CommunityWorx. communityworx.org ■ The Egg & I in the East 54 complex changed its name in January to First Watch to match the chain that bought the Egg & I company in 2015 and began converting the breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurants one by one. firstwatch.com/locations/chapel-hill ■ Red Bowl Asian Bistro closed in mid-December after more than nine years in what is now University Place mall. ■ The Haw River Grill in Elliott Square and Soiree Style consignment shop on West Rosemary Street have closed, each after less than a year in business.
— Nancy E. Oates