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From the Ground Up

Article Published: Mar. 15, 2012 | Modified: Mar. 15, 2012
From the Ground Up

Fred Jones and his brother, Larry (not pictured), recently opened Fred & Larry’s Coffee in Banner Elk.
Photos by Karen Sabo

Like a little art with your coffee?

So do brothers Fred and Larry Jones, who opened Fred & Larry’s Coffee in Banner Elk six weeks ago.
Their new business is a haven not only for good java, but also for original paintings that line the walls of its soothing space.

Fred initiated the new business venture after he and his wife visited Beech Mountain one winter and fell in love with the area. When they got back to their home in central Florida, they started preparing to move to North Carolina, and soon Fred was looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.

He purchased a Laundromat and adjoining storefront in the Food Lion plaza in Banner Elk and enlisted help from older brother Larry, then living in Alabama, to transform the adjacent space into a café.

Larry’s wife, Gwen, is a visual artist and spends hours each day in her studio — located in the corner of the café — helping create the décor for the coffee shop, which the brothers renovated themselves.
“The only thing I knew I wanted was a black ceiling,” said Fred, who runs the business with Larry, “and no florescent lighting.”

The majority of the furniture and equipment is reused, with Fred and Larry painting it and the walls in soothing, coffee-like shades. “All this equipment kept falling in my lap,” Fred said, referring to the pastry case, industrial coffee grinder and espresso/cappuccino machine, all of which he got for a very low price from another coffee shop that was going out of business.

The brothers also consider themselves fortunate to have gotten help from Conrad Poe and his wife, Jody, known in the High Country for their own Conrad’s Coffee Company, a local family-owned coffee roasting and retail business.

Fred said that connecting with the Poes was simple.

“We found him in the phone book,” he said. “He and Jody just took us under their wing.”
Jody spent time in the brothers’ fledgling business, sharing her expertise and barista skills.

Incorporating art was their own idea, and they include performing arts in the mix. Fred & Larry’s Coffee hosts an open mike night every Friday and Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. Fred said that they’d like to incorporate poetry readings in addition to music. Resident artist Gwen also invites any visual artists to contact her about hanging their work in the space.

The brothers hope patrons will take advantage of access to fresh coffee and baked goods, while getting their laundry done next door. And Fred and Larry take the ease of opening their café as a sign of having the right business at the right time.

“Lots of times you have to make things happen, but everything’s kind of fallen into place,” Fred said.
Fred & Larry’s Coffee is located at 3591 Tynecastle Highway in Banner Elk, in the Food Lion Plaza.

Hours are Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m., with extended hours for open mike nights Fridays and Saturdays.

Beat It

Got restaurant news? Email editor Frank Ruggiero at ( or call (828) 264-6397.

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