Featured photo: Designer Amanda Marley and owner Trina Apple came together to make their vision for Northern Roots Coffeehouse a reality this year. (photo by Juliet Coen)
The downtown storefront at 300-B S. Elm St. has finally found a long-term tenant.
In the last couple of years the space has undergone numerous changes, from a UNCG pop-up shop to former presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s campaign office. But now, the recently renovated space is bright and airy with pops of greenery that elevate its mostly white walls and minimal décor.
Since May 19, Northern Roots Coffeehouse has called the spot home. Through the window, passersby on the sidewalks can peek at the booths covered in a plush, green carpet-like material and decorated with pebble-shaped pillows. As the eye draws further back into the space, egg-shaped wicker chairs line one side before the counter while large boxes with a black-and-white textile background float off the wall on the right.
“People would walk by and they’d knock on the door and they’d be like, ‘It looks great!,’ and give us a thumbs up,” says owner Trina Apple. “People were just so excited to see something finally, finally come in here.”
Apple, who has lived in the Triad for the last nine years, formerly worked at the Jumping Bean, a drive-through coffee shop in Summerfield, before she opened her own shop. After managing Jumping Bean for three years, she thought she would eventually buy the business from the owner and take it on for herself. But as Apple let her daydreams grow, she realized she wanted to have a larger brick-and-mortar business.
“I was driving around down here to coming to get coffee downtown,” Apple recalls. “And we were stopped at the light, and it was the day after Wrangler, who was next door, had just moved out and I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. So, I said, ‘Let’s pull over and take a peek in there.’”
After that, she asked the owner about opening a coffee shop in that corner space but Hype Clinic, which is there now, beat Apple to it. So, she set her sights on 300B next door and called her friend Amanda Marley to design the space.
“She opened her laptop and I looked [at her design] and I said, ‘I don’t want to change anything,’” Apple says.
“I was really excited about the vision, and it came together perfectly,” says Marley who owns interior-design and woodworking company Real Fine Place.
For the coffee shop she envisioned creating a bright, open atmosphere that wove the outdoors throughout the interior because the space is so long.
“It is such a long space and I wanted to make sure it didn’t feel closed off to the outside just because it was a long skinny space,” Marley says. “I wanted to bring the outdoors all the way in and have it feel very clean and natural. So that’s why we have a lot of natural wood and a lot of black and white, and then the green is the pop of color.”
In addition to the window booths and the egg chairs, the shop has custom-built tables made from butcher block along the walls as well as a living room-like area in the back of the space with a large egg-shaped couch and faux concrete table.
All in all, from groundbreaking to opening, the renovation of the space took about a year.
“When I know a project is going to take a long time, I try to look at the forecasting trends as opposed to the trends right now,” Marley says. “That way, by the time it’s finished, it’ll be perfect.”
And that’s why the shop looks different than other coffeeshops in the area, Marley says.
“I feel like it turned out great because it’s different,” she says. “I designed it differently than any other space downtown. I drew inspiration from a lot of different things but nothing that I’ve ever seen here. So I feel like this space is truly original.”
In addition to the design, the use of coffee as well as the way Apple has set up her business aims to be different, too.
For her coffee, she’s partnered with Loom Coffee Co., a local, specialty coffee roaster that has made paying a living wage the core of their business model. In a previous article for TCB, the owners of Loom said that they would only partner with businesses that were in line with their mission, like Borough Coffee. And now, with the addition of Northern Roots Coffeehouse, they have become the first living-wage, brick-and-mortar coffee shop in Greensboro.
“Where I was at in Summerfield, I was being paid well and I was able to survive as a single parent on what I was making there,” Apple says. “So my thing was, we need to give that to other people. Because if we enjoy this so much, let’s continue that. So when Christopher said to me that they’re only going to work with shops that are paying livable wages, I was like, ‘We’re here.’”
Currently Northern Roots employs six workers who are all paid between $14 and $16 per hour plus tips.
In addition to fostering a career in coffee for her employees, Apple hopes that the shop becomes a comforting space for those who visit downtown.
“I want for every person who walks through that door, for every sense in their body to come alive,” Apple says. “I want them to see beauty, hear beauty, taste it, feel it. I want their experience to start the second they walk in…. So let’s serve an amazing cup of coffee and let’s just do this.”
Visit Northern Roots Coffeehouse at 300B S. Elm St. in Greensboro. Follow them on Instagram at @northernrootscoffeehouse and on Facebook for hours and more.
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