Editor’s note: Sayaka Matsuoka’s husband and TCB webmaster Sam LeBlanc occasionally works for Borough Coffee in Greensboro.
It’s been almost two months since the Green Bean coffeeshop in downtown Greensboro closed its doors after an exodus of its staff. Now, the business is under new ownership.
As TCB first reported in mid September, the beloved downtown coffee spot came under public scrutiny after all of its employees quit amid allegations of inadequate management and pay against the previous owner, Amy Foresman.
Now, the business will be run by Foresman’s son, Caleb, and his wife Lilou.
The first clue came after Caleb, who formerly flipped furniture and posted his work on an Instagram account, changed the name of the account to @greenbeansboro. Around the same time, a new sign was painted on the front window of the shop and a sign was posted that the business was under new management.
The Instagram account shows videos of how the two have recently renovated the interior of the coffeeshop, painting the walls and putting up new art.
A quick search of the business on the NC Secretary of the State website shows that a new LLC under the name The Green Bean NC LLC was established on Sept. 26, a few weeks after the business closed.
Last week, TCB reached out to Amy Foresman asking about the change in ownership via email. Foresman did not respond.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lilou Foresman spoke with TCB about why they’ve taken over the business and what they envision for it moving forward.
“We’re just excited to be the new owners,” Lilou said. “The Green Bean has had many owners in the past; this isn’t the first time it’s gone through a transition in ownership and with any transition I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit of a lag with the regulars…”
Lilou also said that both she and Caleb grew up in Greensboro and met while attending the Early College at Guilford. The two moved back to Greensboro from Austin, TX, earlier this year.
“Our first date was at the Green Bean,” Lilou said. “We’ve had ties to this coffee shop before Amy was even an owner.”
According to the new Instagram posts, Caleb bought the business from his mother “at fair market price,” and paid off some of the back rent that had accrued over the years.
When the two reopened the business, Lilou said they had to secure all new vendors.
“We started over with most of our vendors,” she said. “Because of the exodus, a lot of vendors didn’t want to work with the Green Bean at that point.”
On Instagram, Caleb notes how this is a learning process for both him and Lilou, who don’t have a background in coffee.
Lilou told TCB that the two aren’t paying themselves because they want to make sure they can pay their two employees — one of whom is Lilou’s best friend and the other is that best friend’s girlfriend — fairly. Lilou told TCB that they currently pay their two employees $8 per hour plus tips and that they’d like to pay them more once business picks back up.
“We want to go higher, but before, sales were averaging $1,200 per day, and since we reopened our highest day was like $500,” she said. “We really want to up things but with our sales and the cost of rent in downtown, it hasn’t been the easiest to go higher.”
A video posted by Caleb on Instagram also notes that both he and Lilou currently live in Gibsonville — a 30-minute drive away from the shop — with Lilou’s parents whom he states were pivotal in helping to renovate the shop, which reopened at the end of October.
Lilou said that Amy is no longer involved in the business in any way.
“When we bought the business, she had zero involvement,” Lilou said. “I know she’s Caleb’s mom, but I’m sure not everyone is the closest with their parents. We’re not necessarily close with Caleb’s family. If anything, the reason why this place was able to open back up is because of my family’s support.”
Past to present
The change in ownership has been welcome by some in the community who have been following Caleb’s recent posts on Instagram. A few have encouraged the two to revamp the business and reestablish it as a go-to spot downtown. One user comments, “Good luck. I really hope you make a success of it.”
But those who remember Amy’s tenure as the owner are skeptical.
“I think that Caleb has a huge misunderstanding of the entire situation,” said Enid Coogan, a former manager for the Green Bean who quit in early September. “The impact, the nuances of the conflict that went down, and his role in the mistreatment of the employees. His attitude towards the situation at the beginning is not matching any of his new statements about wanting to breathe new life back into the Green Bean.”
In September, most of the complaints that past employees outlined pertained to Amy’s handling of the business. They told TCB that she was an absentee owner who expected too much from her employees while not contributing any labor of her own. They also said that any time they brought up the issue of increasing wages, she pushed back. The ongoing tension between Amy and her employees came to a head when screenshots from the business’ Slack channels were posted on social media. In one of the messages, Amy can be seen stating that she doesn’t believe in the construct of living wages.
When the staff asked for more help in the business, Amy told them that her son Caleb would be coming in to help. In that exchange, many of the employees asked Amy how much Caleb would be paid and what experience he had working behind the counter. To that, Caleb replied that he would just be “an extra smiling face at the café, cleaning up as needed, bussing tables, sweeping, etc.” and that he was not going to be paid.
In one of the Slack messages, Caleb can be seen reaching out to Olivia Constantinidi, who worked at Green Bean from August 2021 to early September. In screenshots posted to Constantinidi’s Instagram, Caleb messages Constantinidi, stating that “a raise is a raise,” and that if she “found the raise disrespectful, [she is] welcome to seek out other employment.”
He also writes that her posts to the full group on Slack are “disrespectful” and that she should have more “tact” and be “wary of the first impression” that she gives off.
Given that history, Coogan expressed skepticism of the new ownership.
“[I] can only believe he saw the opportunity to become a business owner and renovate the space for his own gain,” Coogan told TCB. “He claims to want to make it a better space, but hasn’t directly addressed or taken accountability for the situations that caused all of the employees to leave. He is mentioning he is more respectful than his mother, but was negligent to be respectful when it really mattered. Now that it will have an effect on his public image, I believe he’s trying to paint himself in a better light.”
Many of the more critical comments on the new Instagram posts have since been removed.
Still, Lilou said that she wants customers to judge the Green Bean on their new ownership, not how Amy ran it before.
“Most of the things I see online about the Green Bean is how we’re somehow affiliated with Amy when she’s not even allowed on the premises,” she said. “In Austin, Texas, we were totally in charge of people’s first impressions of us and we could truly make our own name for ourselves. Coming back to Greensboro was a tough reminder that we’re not totally in charge of our own reputation here. Everyone online is prejudging us when they don’t know us and only know Caleb’s mom. They’re spitting lies online talking about how we didn’t file a new LLC and people are assuming we took a lot of shortcuts or took the easy way when that’s not the case at all. We honestly would’ve had an easier time buying a business from someone we didn’t know.”
As of early November, the business has posted that they are open every day from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays when they open an hour later.
Despite some of the pushback from the community, Lilou told TCB that she and Caleb are just focused on running the business every day.
“We’re Gen Z; we’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” she said. “We’re the baristas from 7-4 and there are other duties to keep this place running. It’s a little tough right now but I appreciate people’s patience with us and we’re ready to embrace the new chapter of the Green Bean with everyone.”
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