Belle, Cary’s newest restaurant, serves fare made with ingredients from local farms.
Most of the chicken comes from Heritage Farms in Garner, tomatoes come from Screech Owl in Pittsboro, and the cheese comes from Chapel Hill Creamery and Hillsborough Cheese Company.
Cary officials sampled it all during a recent tasting event, humming in approval after trying bacon and chicken jam crostinis.
But when they hugged the restaurant’s visionary, Tammy Calaway-Harper, on their way out the door, it wasn’t because of the food.
It was because the new restaurant at the corner of Academy Street and Dry Avenue offers something that can’t be found on the menu: rejuvenation.
For Calaway-Harper, a 47-year-old former marketing pro-turned-caterer, the venture is a shot at a second career.
For Cary’s historic Jones House, where Belle is located, the restaurant brings new purpose for a once-derelict building that dates back to the late 19th century.
For the town of Cary, which spent $255,000 to help renovate the Jones House, Belle offers another reason for residents to visit downtown, which town leaders have made a point to resurrect.
“We’ve breathed life back into it,” Calaway-Harper said.
The town spent $6 million to open The Cary theater on Chatham Street earlier this year. The Town Council recently awarded a $1.4 million loan to a couple that plans to build a boutique hotel on Academy Street.
And town leaders are working on plans for a multi-million-dollar park across from the Jones House.
Town Manager Ben Shivar ran his fingers over the red brick fireplace next to Belle’s bar on Wednesday as he inspected the place.
“This is one of the coolest things about it,” he said. “They’ve done a great job.”
A muddy front lawn has given way to a garden with flowers, herbs and vegetables that Calaway-Harper plans to cook with.
Diners can view the garden outdoors from tables on Belle’s sidewalk, on its wrap-around porch or inside from one of the restaurant’s many original windows.
Belle will also operate as a cafe, opening at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sundays for brunch.
It will serve coffee from Carrboro Coffee Roasters and homemade pastries, which Calaway-Harper specialized in baking for her old catering business known as Sweet T Cakery.
The Athens, Ohio, native now manages a staff of 30 employees, which she describes as both fun and scary.
But whenever her duties seem especially daunting, she thinks about the words of her late father.
Right before Buck Calaway died two years ago at age 67, he told his daughter that she was meant to open a restaurant.
“He always wanted me to do something in life that I was passionate about, something like this that would last forever,” Calaway-Harper said.
Cary is hoping it will.