Chef Ashley Christensen buys downtown Raleigh's Wilmoore Cafe

Raleigh chef plans to expand the coffeehouse hours and menu to include 7 days, evenings

aweigl@newsobserver.comJanuary 8, 2013 

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Ashley Christensen is the executive chef and owner of Poole’s Diner, the acclaimed 75-seat restaurant on Raleigh’s McDowell Street. TRAVIS LONG - tlong@newsobserver.com

TRAVIS LONG — tlong@newsobserver.com

Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen has bought the Wilmoore Cafe, a downtown Raleigh coffeehouse and sandwich shop.

The Wilmoore Cafe was operated by David Fowle, a longtime fixture in the Raleigh coffee scene. It will stay open until Jan. 18.

Christensen says she will close the restaurant for about six weeks and reopen sometime in March. She plans to keep it as a coffeehouse, but expand to seven days a week and into the evening. She will offer more food and a beer, wine and cocktail list. She plans to change the name.

“We’re excited,” Christensen said Tuesday morning.

Fowle, who ran a coffee bar at the downtown Sheraton for nine years, explained that his expertise is serving coffee to the business crowd during the week. That business had grown steadily since it opened in April 2011 at 223 S. Wilmington St., Fowle said.

But Fowle said: “Here’s the rub: The property is too valuable to not do nights and weekends. I don’t have the expertise, energy or bandwidth to do it properly.”

But Christensen does, Fowle said. “She recognizes what a jewel and potential jewel this place can be.”

The deal signed Monday happened organically. Commercial real estate agent Carter Worthy is Fowle’s cousin. She, Fowle and both their spouses are partners in the business and jointly own the building. Worthy knows Christensen from serving together on a committee for a community project several years ago. Christensen also rents office space on the second floor of the building that is home to the Wilmoore.

Christensen happened to tell Worthy that she was ready to open another restaurant just as Fowle and Worthy were discussing how best to expand the Wilmoore Cafe into nights and weekends.

“She’ll take all the great things about the Wilmoore and build upon that,” Worthy said. “That’s exciting for us.”

With this purchase, Christensen expands her reach north along Wilmington Street. She already owns Chuck’s, a burger joint; Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, a fried chicken spot; and Fox Liquor Bar. All three are in the same building at the corner of Wilmington and Martin streets in downtown Raleigh. She also owns Poole’s Diner, a finer dining spot, on South McDowell Street.

Fowle said he is going to enjoy his time off, take his teenage daughter on some college visits and then get a job.

Weigl: 919-829-4848

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