Raleigh, N.C. — Joule Coffee will close in downtown Raleigh at the end of this year, making way for an oyster bar concept.
Ashley Christensen opened Joule at 223 S. Wilmington St. just over three years ago. It's final day of operation is Dec. 31.
"I’m super proud of the coffee and food we’ve shared with the community, and beyond proud of the team that makes it happen everyday," Christensen said in a statement. "The unique coffee experience will find a home down the road as a part of a new concept we’re working on, as will the weekend brunch program that was so celebrated by our guests."
Joule's ending marks the beginning of a new project for the restaurant's chef, Sunny Gerhart. The former Poole's Diner sous chef plans to open St. Roch Oyster and Bar at the same location in the spring.
Gerhart had given Christensen his one year notice last year, as he planned to begin the process of creating his own restaurant.
"I was so excited for him at this prospect, because I believe in him and in his talents as a chef," Christensen said. "I’ve watched him evolve into a true leader in hospitality. In his time in the Joule kitchen, he’s worked hard to creatively explore and adapt our offerings to a really neat group of coffee shop guests, all while leading a fantastic crew."
Gerhart spent several months looking at locations for St. Roch and dealing with the struggles first-time restaurant owners face.
"It’s been exciting and rewarding to talk through those challenges and scenarios with him, having had firsthand experience in finding one’s footing in this business as a first-time owner. After thinking through his situation, I realized I had the opportunity to create an entry point into this business for Sunny in a way that’s unique from what anyone else could offer him. I had the chance to do for him what Eliza Kraft Olander had done for me back in 2007 when it was my dream to open my very own restaurant, Poole’s Diner, in downtown Raleigh," Christensen said.
Christensen said the decision was made to sell the Joule space to Gerhart. She will remain on as an investor in St. Roch, which is named for the New Orleans neighborhood that Gerhart's family grew up in. The menu will focus on local seafood and will have an oyster and raw bar.
"When I first started thinking about opening my own restaurant, I wasn’t sure what kind of concept I wanted to do. As I began to look at spaces, the idea began to form – I knew I wanted to have an oyster bar and focus on the food and the experience that I grew up with. But ultimately, the space that helped me fully realize my dream for my project ended up being my immediate surroundings. Each day, I’d walk into work and think about how perfect the Joule space would be – the long bar, the windows along the entrance, the downtown location that I love," Gerhart said.