When Leon Capetanos was approached in 1991 about putting a coffee shop in his building on Hillsborough Street, he thought coffee sounded like an OK idea, but wondered how it would make money.
Capetanos, originally from Raleigh, was living in Los Angeles at the time working in the film industry as a screenwriter.
But he had inherited property in Raleigh on Hillsborough Street, near NC State University, and wanted to lease it. A coffee shop seemed like a bad business move.
That is, until he walked into an L.A. coffee shop and smelled the coffee being roasted there.
"That's the key," he thought.
He soon became the landlord of Cup A Joe, leasing the building to its owners. Nearly 30 years later, it's a staple in the area. Filled with Elvis posters, old furniture and young people, Cup A Joe seems both timeless and from another era. You can always hear music and coffee grinding, but it's still quiet enough to read and study. Every day of the week there is a different special — from Milkshake Monday to Fusion Friday.
And it's a place where people of different religions, nationalities and ages gather.
Capetanos decided to celebrate the diversity of the coffee shop in a new photography book called "All Are Welcome." The portraits from the book will be exhibited for one day — April 15 — at CAM Raleigh museum.
"This place has so many people, from different walks of life," said Capetanos from a seat in Cup A Joe. "A lot of people go to yuppie places or millennial places, but this has everything in it, and what I wanna do is capture enough of the differences of the people."
From NC to LA, and back
Capetanos, now in his 70s, has put his life in Los Angeles behind him and comes into Cup A Joe all the time for breakfast.
But for decades, he worked with major actors like Robin Williams, Bette Midler, Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss.
The Raleigh native took part in a screenwriting fellowship at Universal Studious in the early 1960s. One day in Raleigh, he got a call: "How'd you like to come out here and work in Hollywood?"
He went on to write screenplays for films such as "Moscow on the Hudson," “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Fletch Lives” and “Moon Over Parador.”
For awhile, Capetanos dabbled in photography and collected photographs. In LA, he had an idea for a project based around different portraits of people in the city. Everyday he ate breakfast with the same group at the same place.
"When I was gonna leave," Capetanos thought, "no one will ever know what this was like."
He photographed everyone and presented the photos as an exhibit.
While Capetanos met many funny and interesting people, he said, "I'd just run out of steam in Hollywood."
He decided he didn't want to raise his family in Hollywood. About 14 years ago he moved back to his home city of Raleigh.
In figuring out who he would photograph for the Cup A Joe book, his approach was simple. He went up to people he found interesting.
"I'd see them outside on the street and I'd say, 'I'd like to take your picture,'" he said.
He made a photo studio in a storage building behind the coffee shop. The photo session was brief.
"It didn't give them long enough to get nervous, or start thinking about making up," Capetanos said.
The book is filled with 54 photos — old stern men who play guitars, tattoo-covered librarians and sociologists, landscape designers, professors, cooks with gauge ear rings and the shop's baristas.
The book both celebrates the people who have made the coffee shop a Raleigh fixture and is a reflection of the political climate.
"The idea for making a photographic portrait of the place came about in the middle of the heated debate about immigration and diversity that the Trump administration engendered," Capetanos wrote in his book.
"All Are Welcome" was a way to show a "good example of how all the lunatics can get along," Capetanos jokes, "And have all these different cultural problems and differences and interact and be comfortable with each other."
What: "All Are Welcome" photo exhibit, book signing and refreshments. Books will be sold for $25 with all proceeds supporting CAM Raleigh.
When: 3 p.m. April 15
Where: CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Info: The book will be available in the museum store after the exhibition date.