By Anna-Rhesa Versola | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Many visitors are familiar with the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and Durham Performing Arts Center, but exploring the rest of the American Tobacco Campus is oh, so worthwhile. Most know that it’s home to an assortment of restaurants, bars, retail shops, pop-up markets, event and flexible work spaces, and family-friendly activities. But it’s easy to discover many new points of interest on a quick stroll through the campus.
Walk along the man-made Old Bull River that bisects the Blackwell Street complex till you get to the The Cage, an outdoor facility in the center of the district where you can play a round of pick-up pickleball or take part in other fitness classes through the YMCA branch on campus. On the other side of the river lies the small cedar shake cabin (left) of Burt’s Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz, which was restored and relocated from Maine in 2017 to mark the entrance to the global headquarters of the natural health and beauty care products company. Head over to the office building and you’ll find an Observation Hive, home to thousands upon thousands of bees, which Burt’s Bees installed in 2014 to help educate visitors on the important role bees play in human and environmental health.
Look for ATC’s three murals that reflect the city’s past, present and future:
- The lunch counter mural under the stairwell near The Power Plant pays homage to the life and times of the laborers who worked at the American Tobacco factory years ago.
- In 2016, Burt’s Bees commissioned a bee-themed mural by artist Matt Willey on the side of its offices. It serves as a reminder to focus on “the good of the hive” to make our community thrive for years to come, says Adam Klein, director at ATC and American Underground.
- Durham artist Kasia Konopka took her talents to the South Deck parking garage, painting a couple simple messages like, “Hi!” and, fittingly, “I ❤️ Durham.”
And next time you’re downtown, see if you can spot these other new murals!
For older adults, the Durham Center for Senior Life has free classes on subjects ranging from yoga to technology, American Sign Language to line dancing, African drumming to tai chi. The center also offers special events, educational workshops, movie screenings in their onsite theater and free daily lunches. Tours are available twice a week. Schedule a visit at dcslnc.org or call at 919-688-8247.
Back to the South Bling (right) is the newest pop-up at Downtown Durham Inc.’s micro-retail space at 307 W. Main St. Led by founder Lynn Woods, the woman-owned company makes ordinary items unique with a handcrafted bedazzling process. “It’s my way of making sure that every woman knows and understands their worth and the importance of letting their light shine and being the amazing person that they are,” Lynn says.
It’s a rare gathering spot where guests can eat, drink, pick out a book to read and also create a podcast. Queeny’s offers all of the above. “As a studio artist who spends [much of my] of time working alone, I have always listened to a lot of radio, audiobooks and podcasts,” says Michelle Vanderwalker, who co-owns the restaurant and bar as well as basement cocktail bar Kingfisher and American Tobacco Campus burger joint Queenburger with Sean Umstead. “I heard the origin stories of several podcasts starting off in someone’s closet under a blanket, and I just loved the idea of creating a space that would make it really easy for people to try out a new podcast idea or record some family stories with no startup costs. We had this room that used to be a big safe with 2-foot-thick concrete walls that I couldn’t bear to waste as a storage room. I used leftover foam scraps from the upholstery I did for our banquettes, made some big, sound-absorbing panels to line the room, and consulted with Triangle Sound Service to get the audio equipment we needed.” Performers regularly rotate through the space, including live jazz musicians, DJs and Brazilian choro band Noites Carolinas. Community-based engagements are often added to the schedule, such as The Great Durham Bake-Off, a book club and a weekly lunch/baby play date. Check its Instagram page for updates. Queeny’s is open daily from 11:45 a.m. until 2 a.m. Guests ages 21 and older are welcome to stay after 10 p.m.
Bad Machines is the state’s first electronic sports bar. Serving only North Carolina craft beer along with game-inspired cocktails, gamers ages 21 and older (or younger before 7:30 p.m.) are invited to come watch or participate in competitive video gaming tournaments or play games on the various consoles, from PlayStations to Nintendo Switches. For instance, up to four guests can play Mario Kart or Ultimate Smash Brothers at the bar.
Bad Machines also hosts a live jam band every two weeks featuring retro gaming music from Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter and more. Band members encourage locals to bring their instruments and play along. The esports bar is located on the second floor of 108 E. Main St. and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight.
Get the kiddos into their Halloween costumes and make your way to The Roof at The Durham Hotel at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25, for a no-tricks-and-all-treats free storytime with the librarians from Durham County Library.
Young families can also enjoy storytime with Barnaby D. Troll at Durham Central Park, depending on the season, and visit the other park sculptures, Mr. Pickles the Turtle or Rockin’ Reuben the Cardinal. Then stroll through the Garden of Eatin’ to spy what fruits and flowers might be on display, or visit the beehive on your way to the skate park.
Love to host parties? Need more space to do so? Want a place to crash when your shindig comes to a close? Reach out to Silvia Gallo, owner of Killer Queen Wine Bar, about booking Pretty Vacant – a loft apartment above Killer Queen and Carolina Soul Records in the historic 1920s building on East Main Street. The 2-bedroom, 2-bath suite comes with space enough to host a private dinner for up to
16 guests. Bring in your own catering, or ask Silvia for a list of private chefs who can work in the space. Add on a wine tasting with a sommelier to complete the lavish experience.
“Night School is a bar, but it’s so much more,” says owner Lindsey Andrews, who grew up in a family of school teachers, small business owners and restaurateurs. “In summer 2020, Arcana was closed,” Lindsey says, speaking to her former role at the downtown basement bar, “and I was off from teaching [at NC State]. It felt like a social and psychological necessity to study and be with other people, so I created a free class online, and 30 people showed up. It grew organically from there.” Lindsey’s bar, with its pay-what-you-can educational programs, is now open in the historic building at 719 N. Mangum St. “I love the social space of a bar, and the history and creativity that goes with making cocktails; education is actually a natural fit there,” Lindsey says. She holds a doctorate in English and a certificate in feminist studies from Duke University and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Southern California. “Higher education is in crisis; students are burdened with debt, and teaching is underpaid and often precarious work,” she says. “Offering pay-what-you-can classes, and stabilizing living wage employment through a bar creates a new avenue for being together and learning in a more equitable way. It means everything to me.”
Downtown Ethiopian restaurant Goorsha opened its sister cafe and lounge Gojo directly behind the restaurant in October 2020. On Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the menu offers coffee drinks like the traditional jebena, as well as heat-filled, flavorful breakfast sandwiches, paninis and vegan or protein-based bowls – perfect to partake in during the cooler fall weather out on its back patio. We recommend the GoJo, a panini named after the cafe. It features chicken, roasted red pepper, provolone and awaze pesto sauce (a spicy, reddish spread). For late nights on Fridays and Saturdays, GoJo is the go-to place for afro-pop music as its moody interior transforms into a dance floor. Evening hours are as follows: Wednesdays, 6-11 p.m., Thursdays, 8 p.m. until 1 a.m., and Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Goorsha owner Fasil Tesfaye has yet another downtown venture that’s just hit the scene – he’s partnered with Raymond Lee of the former Kaffeinate coffee shop, which was devasted in the 2019 gas explosion that claimed the life of his father, Kong Lee, to open 19FiftyOne at Golden Belt. The name of this new cafe and bar honors the Ethiopian soldiers who arrived 1951 as part of the allied command to help Korean troops during the Korean War. The restaurant features Ethiopian- and Korean-inspired American fare, and is open from 8-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, sat-sun noon-10pm.
the GoJo sandwich – chicken, roasted red pepper, provolone and awaze pesto sauce and timatim (tomato salad); and a protein bowl – zilzil key wot (beef in red pepper sauce), tikil gomen (cabbage, potato), fosolia (green beans and carrots), timatim (tomato salad).
ABOVE LEFT Sara Ghebremicael gets some work done with a mug of hot water and a croissant on Gojo’s patio.
Downtown’s cultural landscape has seen many enriching additions over the past few years, providing new spaces for artistic exploration and communal connection. Rubies on Five Points beckons with its warm ambiance and friendly bartenders, transforming from a laid-back bar where friends can unwind over drinks into an energetic music venue as the night unfolds. This venue is part of a dynamic family of businesses, including its downstairs bar Remedy Room, sidewalk breakfast taco cart Lady Gold Tacos, and Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas. PS37, situated near Durham Central Park at 600 Foster St., Ste. B, stands as a vibrant DIY space that transcends conventional boundaries, hosting diverse events ranging from live music shows to dance parties, markets and exhibits. Just a stone’s throw away, the Living Arts Collective at 410 W. Geer St. serves as a flexible hub for holistic and sustainable wellness and creativity, inviting participants to engage in movement classes, workshops, retreats and community socials, dances and jams. Down the block at 220 W. Geer St., NorthStar Church of the Arts harmoniously combines spirituality and creativity, offering an inclusive and welcoming environment where diverse art forms can flourish.
Read the full article here