When you’re sitting in a local coffee shop, there’s always a chance the proprietor will swing in and say hello. But when it’s Lorraine’s Coffee House & Music in Garner, the proprietor comes with an extra shot of star power.
Lorraine Jordan, mandolin player and singer for Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, opened the coffee shop in June 2014 with a dual purpose – a place to gather with family and friends over coffee and a music venue that puts the spotlight on bluegrass.
“It’s always been my dream to have a place where people could come that wasn’t a bar scene,” said Jordan. “They could bring their kids or bring their seniors, families could come be together, people could sit back and listen to the music, people could come in and play the music.”
All of the above was happening on a recent Tuesday evening during the weekly bluegrass jam. It took Jordan several minutes to get from the front door to the coffee counter as she shook hands with customers, several of whom were wearing royal blue Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road Fan Club T-shirts and bore gifts to celebrate Jordan’s recent birthday. A handful of musicians traded tunes, and many in the shop sang along between sips of latte.
The building that houses Lorraine’s was once Tom Jones Compounding Pharmacy, but there’s nothing clinical about it now. Renovated with acoustics in mind and outfitted with wooden tables and chairs and comfy couches, the building beckons warmly as you enter through a set of large red double doors with handles that form a circle emblazoned with the letter L.
As you walk to the counter, you pass an elevated stage with a lighting rig and pro sound system. The walls on all sides are lined with photos of Jordan with fellow musicians, including Vince Gill, Rhonda Vincent, Ralph Stanley and, of course, Garner’s own Scotty McCreery.
When Jordan, a Garner resident for more than 30 years, decided to make her dream a reality, her hometown was the obvious location.
“I’ve been on the road for 23 years now full time, I’m pretty much gone every weekend,” she said. “I knew as I continue to age, and as years go by, I couldn’t keep up the pace of the bus and traveling. … After awhile, it’s time for you to look at things and say, well, I can’t get on that bus forever. So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll bring the people to me.’”
From the beginning, she said, the people have come – mostly for the music.
“I would say 80 percent of the people we get in this coffee house are because they’re a bluegrass fan,” she said. They know her; they know Steve Dilling, booking agent for the coffeehouse who also plays banjo in Sideline and formerly played with IIIrd Tyme Out; and they know the baristas, several of whom play in bluegrass bands. They know that even when there’s no one on stage, they’ll hear bluegrass and acoustic music on the PA. “It’s just where they call home.”
Part of that “home” feeling comes from the venue’s singular focus on bluegrass (though performers with more of a country or gospel bent have been featured, too). Lots of places in the Triangle will bring in bluegrass bands from time to time, but “there is really nothing like this anywhere around,” Jordan said. She also wanted to set her business apart from bars and clubs, in part by setting early concert start times and not selling alcohol.
“I really want everybody to be able to bring their kids in here whenever they want to,” she said. “I want you to be able to bring your grandmom here.”
The atmosphere is casual at Lorraine’s, but when the music starts, the chitchat ends and the focus is solely on the music. Audiences listen attentively but aren’t afraid to call out requests or offer friendly encouragement between songs, even for bigger-name acts that come through, like Marty Raybon, Larry Sparks and Darin & Brooke Aldridge.
Because even with a full menu of coffee drinks, some light food to go with it and the occasional hiss of the espresso machine in the background during shows, the music takes center stage.
“This is all about the music,” Jordan said. “You’ve heard of ‘All About That Bass’? This place is all about the music.”
Stacy Chandler: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorraine’s Coffee House & Music
101 Timber Pointe Lane, Garner; 919-714-7990; lorrainescoffeehouse.com
Hours: Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. (Just Jesus church service Sundays 10:30-11:30 a.m.). Open until 9:30 p.m. on event nights.
Events: Bluegrass jam Tuesdays at 7 or 7:30 p.m.; performances most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 7:30 p.m. See schedule and ticket information at lorrainescoffeehouse.com/events.
If you go
What: Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road
When: 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Tuesday
Where: Tir Na Nog, 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh
Cost: Varies depending on membership and type of pass
When: 4 p.m. Friday
Where: Hargett Street stage at street festival