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Street Talk

By Mickey Howley

Maggie Richardson is the proprietress of the Humble Bee Café. Her café, open now for almost a year or so and is doing well, AND I feel entirely responsible for her success. 


Because with my handy dandy pressure washer, I cleaned the sidewalk in front and made the coffee cup profile by not blasting off the grime. Ever tried to draw with 3,000 psi spray wand? It ain’t easy. Yes, that dirty coffee cup stencil brings them in off the sidewalk and through the door. 

 And once in the door, well, I get more credit for the ambiance. Years ago, when April Pullen had the idea to renovate this building at 405 North Main, I did the interior work in front. Let me clarify that. April told my business partner Peter Buchholz what she wanted and Peter told me what to do, which was the simple stuff no one could really mess up. Still I had a hand in it.

I have a little souvenir from that time, I was resetting the store front awning and fell off a ladder, breaking a bone in my foot. Which on occasion still hurts in that reminder kind of way by saying, “Hey stupid, be careful.”

Now the truth of the matter is you can have all the stencil art and ambiance in the world, but the product has to be good and people need to like it, in the case of a café or a restaurant, on a regular basis, otherwise a nice building is all for naught. Maggie delivers, the coffee kicks. 

Maggie lives upstairs in a nice apartment.  James Ledford did the renovation on that, he did a creative job in his re-use of materials. It is not a big space, but it is lovely and the east facing windows on Main let in a lot of natural light. 

When the building was built in the 1880s it was added to the side of the building at 403 North Main. For years those buildings had similar upper facades, a big sister, little sister look.  Sometime in the 1930s the one at 403 was changed and newer brick was added to the upper facade. The one at the café is still the original. Back then access to the upper floor at 405 was via a side stairs that went along the south bank of the meander arm of Town Creek. When the creek was culverted and the building that is now Hometown Pizza was built, the stairs disappeared and with that, access to the upper floor. And so, the upper floor space was effectively useless for many decades.

Not so now, every square foot of the building gets used. In Main Street economic development circles, we say bringing a building back to a “highest and best use” is part of the economic benefit purpose for not only the owner, but the town. In using every part of the building, Maggie does just that.

 If you’re in the café this week, hang out a bit, the crowd there, driven in by the dirty coffee cup on the sidewalk, seems a pretty diverse cross section of the town. 

 Last Saturday the Farmers Market was rained out, it will be back this Saturday. 

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