Matt Kelly, who as chef-owner of Vin Rouge has shown Triangle gourmands he knows his way around French food, has wanted to add a Spanish restaurant to his Triangle portfolio.
He's one step closer.
Kelly bought the old Book Exchange building at 109 W. Chapel Hill St. in Durham (near the Durham Performing Arts Center) and plans to turn it into a Spanish tapas restaurant.
Mateo, as the restaurant will be called, is near Vin Rouge so Kelly can be in both kitchens. "I like my kitchens; I want to cook," he says.
"We've got a slogan - Spanish heart, Southern soul," Kelly says of Mateo's.
What will that translate to on the menu and, more importantly, on the palate? Kelly says to think homemade chorizo dipped in a corn dog batter or a croquette with country ham or pimento cheese rather than Serrano ham.
Of course, Mateo will serve Serrano and other Spanish hams as well as local hams. Also expect honey so local you can hear the bees, vegetables you can see growing and maybe even eggs from chickens you'll see nesting.
Kelly plans to put a vegetable garden and beehive on the roof, and hopes to get permission from the city of Durham to keep chickens.
But all of that will take time. Kelly says he'd love to be open in late spring.
Before that can happen, the building has to be emptied of 20,000 books and 200 bookshelves.
He's working to donate the books to a prison, the shelves to a charter school in Durham and just about everything else to Habitat for Humanity or the Scrap Exchange in Durham.
"When you're a chef, nothing is wasted," he said.
Then the building, which he says has "strong bones," will need to be brought up to code and turned into a restaurant. He plans an interior with a timeless design - not too modern, not too old-timey.
"It has a lot of natural beauty," Kelly says. "We want to keep that intact."
At Cameron Village in Raleigh, there's some good news for shoe lovers: Rangoni Firenze shoes is leaving Streets at Southpoint in Durham and relocating to the old Main & Taylor space. Look for an opening in mid-January.
And Kendra Leonard has opened The Art of Style, contemporary fashions for men and women in a space near Charlotte's.
The Downtown Raleigh Alliance is once again sponsoring a "Shop Downtown" promotion.
Here's the deal: Pick up a Holiday Shopping Passport at any participating downtown store and receive a sticker for every $20 spent per venue between now and Dec. 24.
Once your passport is filled with five stickers, drop it off at one of the stores and you'll be entered to win one of five prize packages consisting of gift certificates and gift bags.
Winners will be chosen Jan. 3. See the list at godowntownraleigh .com/ shopdowntown raleigh/ holidaypass .
Carolina Pet Spa, a cage-free groomer in Apex, will hold its grand opening open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 10. Santa will be there for pet photo ops.
The spa, at 1000 N. Salem St., hires certified groomers; it also features a waiting room for those who prefer to wait for their pets. Grooming is by appointment only.
Also in Apex, Sophie & Mollies Boutique has opened at 108 A N. Salem St., and The Cigar Vault has opened at 201 N. Salem St.
Please send retail items to firstname.lastname@example.org