After search, Beyú Caffé finds a home in the Snow Building

Dorian Bolden walks around the Snow Building – the planned space for the future Beyú Caffé, a coffeehouse and jazz lounge.

BY MONICA CHEN : The Herald-Sun

DURHAM — The 3,000 square feet inside the Snow Building's first floor is just a shell.

Bare floors, exposed columns and piping fill the empty space, but Dorian Bolden can already see Beyú Caffé alive inside, filled with people, conversation and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

"It's going to look great. It's going to feel great," he said.

Bolden has been working towards opening his coffeehouse/jazz lounge for more than a year. At the start of 2009, he secured financial backing. Now, months later, he has finally signed a lease for a location and done substantial work on the design of the café.

The décor will have an Art Deco theme that's in perfect keeping with the history of the Snow Building, a distinctive building in the city center that was built in 1933 — featuring a Gothic roofline and a manually operated elevator.

The café, located at 335 W. Main St. off to the side of the building's main entrance, will have 80 seats, tile flooring and soft seating, with a retail component directly in front of the entranceway and the dining and bar off to the right. Space for musicians and poetry readings will be to the right and front of the restaurant.

Alicia Hylton-Daniel, an interior designer with HagerSmith Design in Raleigh, has picked teal, yellow and burgundy as the color scheme, offering a dark and rich contrast to the stark white and neutrals of Revolution restaurant and the fresh minty green of Toast.

The space had been a furniture store and then a bagel shop, and Hylton-Daniel, a Durham resident who has had her eye on the Snow Building's Gothic look for some time, said she jumped at the chance to work on the space.

"Beyú will be its own unique spot," she said.

Signing a lease and beginning the design and construction of the space was the second big hurdle toward opening the restaurant, Bolden said. The first is raising the capital, which was $500,000 for Beyú. The third milestone will be to finally see it become profitable.

Beyú started as a dream for Bolden when he was working in financial services in New York in 2004. In the past five years, he has quit the banking industry, gotten his hands dirty working at various cafés and eateries in New York and Durham and finished a business plan.

In 2008, he began working on putting the business together full-time. So far, the business has already achieved some successes, including setting up a Web site ( and snagging the title of the official coffee of the Durham Performing Arts Center recently.

Bolden kicked off the design process in May and signed the lease later in the month. Construction is expected to begin this month, with an eye toward opening in mid-September. Hiring won't start until later, and Bolden said he expects the upfitting to cost $75-$80 per square foot.

He picked the Snow Building space partly because it was more financially feasible than other locations, and partly because of its proximity to Five Points and West Village.

"All those factors made this building stand out," Bolden said. "It would be able to capture more foot traffic."

Bolden had gotten in touch with Duane Marks, one of the developers of the Snow Building, through Duke University alumni connections.

Carey Greene, another partner on the building, acknowledged that restaurants are usually risky ventures and expensive to build out, but that Beyú was in keeping with the long-term vision for the space.

"The long-term vision had always been to have some kind of a retail business down there," he said. "It's going to put the building on the map more than it is right now."

Bolden said that picking the right team to work on the design was a critical element. Working with HagerSmith Design and Burke Design Group, both of Raleigh, Bolden's team includes engineer Ben Burke, decorator Hylton-Daniel, LEED-certified architect David Black and Barbara Bennett, a food service consultant.

Having Bennett on board helped a great deal, Bolden said, because she knew how to design the kitchen for maximum efficiency.

"If you don't have an efficient kitchen, you won't be able to succeed," Bolden said.

"I'm not a chef, but I like to think I'm a gifted businessperson," he added. "We wanted to make sure we don't get so encompassed in the design that we forget about the kitchen."

Bolden hopes to open the restaurant by mid-September.

"The day I can sit back is the day when I can say that we've broken even, paid back the investors and loans and seen it really become a community coffeehouse," Bolden said.

That third milestone will take a while in coming. Hopefully, Bolden said, they'll be able to break even two years from