Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent
Beyú Caffé owner Dorian Bolden bounced from the daily grind of the busied Manhattan big board to a different kind of grind: the beans bringing a jazzy java addition to Durham's Main Street.
Hand-crafted by Bolden, the year-old jazz-and-joe-joint isn't just keeping the Bull City abuzz, but serves up an un-filtered hot spot for singularity and solidarity, its name a nod to its MO beyu: to house a space for you to "be you," and "caffe," the Italian word for coffee, a tribute to the historied communal culture that coffee represents.
To grab the inside scoop, we recently chatted up Bolden and got him to spill the beans on Beyú's rise to mocha mecca from perking up the Bull City's counter culture, to giving mugs an alternative to those run-of-the-mill corner coffeehouses by housing a sip spot where we can really stop and savor the flavor. So, cop a squat, steep and be merry. And, well, be you.
Q: Tell us about your background in the NY Financial District. What made you bounce for the beans?
Beyú Caffé (pronounced be-you) is a unique concept I opened just over a year ago in downtown Durham. The original idea of Beyú Caffé was created while I was a Senior Financial Advisor working on Wall Street in 2005. I was on the path of a successful financial career when all of a sudden simultaneously my father died suddenly and our company announced it was merging. My father's passing shook me up and made me realize that life was not guaranteed and I needed to "live" while I can; and during the company merger, many of my friends and mentors were laid off which spawned the thought of entrepreneurship -- to work for myself. That discovery to live my life for me before the curtains closed is what led to the idea to create a place where people can be themselves and unwind and let go.
After leaving New York in 2005, I worked for four years learning the various jobs of Beyú Caffé: bartender, barista, cashier, line cook, assistant manager, all so that I could learn the trade and the industry. Although I have a lot more to learn, Beyú is off to a great start. And it's clearly because our staff provides a warm and friendly environment that allows everyone to "be yourself."
Q: What's in a name: Beyú Caffé
Beyú is pronounced (be-you), meaning a place to come and just be yourself, and caffe is Italian for coffee. It's my way of paying homage to the birthplace of espresso but also the place where coffeehouses quickly caught on as a community hub for business, politics and the overall community chitchat. The coffeehouse was the original Facebook, connecting people socially.
Q: What does it mean to be "Beyú" or rather to be an "everyday oasis to be you?"
I believe we all have natural talent and ability, but we do not always have the framework to allow those talents and abilities to surface. That's kinda the message and vision of Beyú. We strive to create an atmosphere where one can sit back, unwind, relax and be him or herself. That may mean a graphic designer working on the next great project; an aspiring entrepreneur developing his next step to achieve his dream; or colleagues or friends enjoying each other's company over coffee, a cocktail or great food.
Q: What is it about coffee?
The history! The history and age of coffee fascinates me. The earliest records for coffee put it around 300 A.D., which means every time we talk about a piece of history, from great peaceful memories to unfortunate wars, coffee played a role.
Q: You envisioned a space where java and live jazz collide. What inspired that?
The jazz portion of Beyú Caffé actually came from a night when my wife and I were in my hometown of Atlanta, Ga., on a date. We went to a really cool jazz club near the Fox Theater downtown, and I knew that I too wanted to add the cool and mellow vibe of jazz to Beyú Caffé. The sophistication of jazz and its natural ability to be loved and appreciated all over the world by a wide range of individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds made it an integral piece to add flavor to Beyú Caffé. But I knew it would not be easy because many well-known establishments throughout the Triangle had been unsuccessful in the past with offering live jazz.
Q: The history of coffee, combined with modern day Euro cafes, informed heavily upon Beyú's conceptualization. In what ways?
Like many European cafes, Beyú Caffé wanted to have a sense of individuality versus a "chain-like" approach. This is not to say there is anything bad with chains and franchises; however, we wanted to be able to stand apart from the common coffee shop down the street. More importantly, at Beyú Caffé, we take pride in how we prepare our coffee beverages using skilled baristas, manual (and not automatic) espresso machines, selling retail coffee beans for home use and, my favorite, using coffee, espresso and liqueurs to make delicious coffee cocktail beverages which is very common overseas.
Q: Looks like we can credit the possibility of modern day joe-joints like Beyú to a dancing goat. Tell us about it.
So no one can trace back the true beginning of coffee, historical records put coffee somewhere around 300AD. However there's a common story surrounding the discovery of coffee whereby a Shaman in a local village of present day Ethiopia in Africa discovered his goats moving sporadically and being quite hyper; hence it looked like they were dancing. The Shaman realized that the goats were eating from a particular cherry tree, which is how coffee looks in its original form, a green bean inside a cherry.
Q: With your tag line "they all started with just one store" in reference to bean behemoths like Starbucks, what is Beyú's vision for the future?
I'm still not quite sure. That tag line was motivation for me to pursue my goal in the beginning when I saw all the coffee chains popping up, and I wasn't sure I could open a cool place like Beyú, and it seemed a franchise was the only way. However, every franchise started off as a cool concept and that got me going. I would love to open a few more Beyú Caffes in other cities, but I don't see this as a "five stores within a two mile radius" type concept.
Q: Trends noted, coffeehouses have history ... but they are also a sort of modern revolution. How does Beyú remain distinct?
I think Beyú adds a distinct flavor from other coffeehouses. By being a coffeehouse, bistro and bar with live jazz we add a unique perspective and operation, even down to how we designed our space with very warm colors that help provide a warm atmosphere. Our staff knows that our primary focus is great service, and that's something we believe certain people have a passion for. You can't really train someone to be a nice person when they don't have that trait. Hence we say, "without passion, it's just coffee." You can buy a cup of joe everywhere, but there's something special about the Beyú experience that has caught on.