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Angel investor keeps Raleigh cafe afloat through coronavirus shutdown

On the day that Beans & Bubbles Cafe in Raleigh closed its doors at the start of the pandemic, owners Lorena and Benji McDowell got a huge surprise. An angel investor wrote them a check large enough to cover a month's worth of expenses.

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Lorena and Benji McDowell are owners of Beans & Bubbles cafe in Raleigh.
Emma Berg
, WRAL.com contributor
RALEIGH, N.C. — On the day that Beans & Bubbles Cafe in Raleigh closed its doors at the start of the pandemic, owners Lorena and Benji McDowell got a huge surprise.

They remember noticing a woman patiently waiting as other customers were being served. She then approached the owners to ask if they could survive the closure.

The McDowells admitted to the woman that they were worried. They said it wouldn't be easy, but they were determined to make it work.

After a quick conversation, the woman wrote them a check large enough to cover their April overhead expenses.

“This was one of the most amazing moments that I've ever experienced,” Lorena McDowell said. “It’s something that happens to other people or something you see on TV.”

Lorena McDowell was shocked by the “angel investor’s” willingness to help.

Because Beans & Bubbles had opened just a few weeks before the shutdown, and it did not qualify for federal coronavirus aid.

The angel investor

“I didn't know her and had never met her before,” Lorena McDowell said. “She wrote a check to help support a black-owned businesses make it through the pandemic.”

That stranger was Retha Bogier, the president and CEO at BOGIER Clinical & IT Solutions. Bogier used to live in the Bedford neighborhood where the cafe is located.

She remembers her own struggles as a business owner and wanted to give back. Bogier explained that the only thing she wanted in return was for the business to succeed.

“I know how hard it is even when times are good,” Bogier said. “I wanted to help them stay open through COVID.”

Bogier feels that small businesses are important to every community, and Beans & Bubbles is no exception.

Neighborhood support

“The community is rallying around it,” Bogier said. “Having the shop is good for the neighborhood.”

Connection to the community is one of the reasons the McDowells opened the business.

Before coronavirus, the cafe was always filled with a variety of customers -- people working from home, teenagers after school and families for an after-dinner treat.

Bubbles & Beans has reopened, but the dining room remains closed. Lorena McDowell looks forward to the day she can welcome the community back into the cafe.

“We loved the community, and the inside of our space was a friendly space for all,” Lorena McDowell said. “It had become a gathering space quickly for people. What I miss the most is the community.”

Lorena McDowell encourages everyone to make the effort to support small businesses like hers.

“When you don't support small businesses they go away,” she said. “We’re part of your community and here to serve you.”

Bogier also urges anyone who can help small businesses to do so. She said people can donate their time or money to make a difference.

“I can’t help everybody, but I can help one person,” Bogier said. “If we can all find one person and help one person the world would be much better.”


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