Cary, N.C. — Downtown Cary has been through some major changes in the last 18 months, and Mike Sholar, the owner of Brew coffee, has been here for it all. With construction now complete, people are starting to enjoy the area again, and Sholar has taken note of it.
Brew opened inside The Cary Theater in March 2016 right as construction was ramping up and as other local businesses were wavering from the pressure. "I was a little nervous, but we believed in the long term vision," said Sholar. "We could see where the Town of Cary was going, and we wanted to make sure we were there for when that happened."
Sholar said that, in the past year, Brew has doubled its daily business.
"There were some months in the beginning when we were just existing, but the community has embraced us," he said. "Now that the construction is done, you see young people enjoying downtown and walking the streets at 9 or 10 p.m."
Newly-paved streets, light-strung trees, ample on-street parking and a beautiful downtown park, stage and fountain are only half of the intimate, historic area's draw. Sholar knows it is businesses like his and his neighbors' that make people want to stay, and, for that reason, he's made it Brew's mission to maintain caring relationships with other downtown business owners.
"I met Tyler at Pharmacy Bottle + Beverage way before we opened, and I've known the guys at Bond Brothers Brewing for awhile," he said. "They've taken off, and it's amazing to see that. It's about relationships, not competition -- we're all here to make Cary better and to provide services to the people who live and work here. The closer we get, the better we can help everybody."
Often, that reach extends beyond downtown Cary's limits. Sholar sources almost all of his coffees, teas and menu offerings from North Carolina companies.
"We keep it as local as possible," said Sholar. "We make sandwiches with bagels from Brown Bag Bagels in Wendell and lettuce from the Raleigh City Farm. We get the majority of our coffee from the Raleigh Coffee Company and serve beer from local breweries. It's about building community relationships and connecting with people. We want to build a small platform to help others stand."
If you're confused because you thought Brew was a downtown Raleigh coffee shop, you're not wrong. Sholar owns both locations, which have a few differences but mimic each other in that they each serve quality coffee and support other local endeavors.
"Since our Cary location also serves as the concession stand for the theater, we sell popcorn and candy," said Sholar. "Every time the theater is open for an event, we're open as well."
The neat part about it is that movie or concert guests have access to a full coffee menu and even sandwiches and salads in addition to theater staples.
"We want to make sure we have everything people need, but there's no need to detract from the other businesses here," said Sholar. "It's more like 'we'll feed you if you're hungry, but we'd love for you to grab something to eat from our neighbor next door.'"
People experiencing downtown Cary for the first time are falling in love with its new energy, but citizens and business owners like Sholar who have experienced its renaissance are in disbelief.
"We're thrilled," said Sholar. "Visually, it's stunning. We came here last weekend, and there were people everywhere. It now feels like a town people want to be engaged with, and not just by going to an event but by experiencing the town. It feels alive, like if I don't come down here and walk around I will miss something big."