A 150-year-old town has few “firsts” remaining. It has checked off first car, first telephone, first TV.
But come fall, Clayton could have its first cocktail lounge.
Mike Stojic and Maleah Christie plan to open Revival 1869 on Main Street, bringing downtown its first dedicated bar and raising the “cool” ante in Clayton. The business partners call it a “drinkery” and describe it as a speakeasy without a password. The owners plan a library of whiskeys and carefully mixed drinks. They say they will have beer, but those beers won’t be Bud Light.
Stojic is a former Marine who made his way to Clayton from Florida by way of Camp Lejeune. Christie, an artist, is more of a local, a University of North Carolina grad who grew up in Cary. Stojic sought Christie out for design work on his post-military dream of owning a bar, but then the two formed a partnership.
Their space, at 222 E. Main St., once housed two real estate offices side by side, with one vacant for a month and the other for upward of a year. The floors are dusty, and the paint is peeling from the wall, but Stojic and Christie are giddy about their building. In its exposed brick they see charm, and in its tin ceiling they see a connection to an era of Clayton they hope to channel.
“A lot of the concept is in the building we found; it really helps create the personality of the bar,” Stojic said. “There’s this beautiful tin ceiling that was covered up for years by drop-down ceiling tiles.”
The name Revival 1869 references the year of Clayton’s charter, but also harkens back generally to a time before smartphones and sports bars. Christie said the bar hopes to specialize in cocktails and conversation.
“We want to bring people back to each other,” she said. “A lot of times people are busy watching the game or looking at their phone. We hope to bring back the lost art of social interaction, connecting face to face. You know, over a nice glass of whiskey.”
Instead of televisions, Revival will have an upright piano and couches in a lounge area, plus a bar and high-top tables. James Lipscomb owns the building and is taking on the renovations.
Clayton’s downtown currently has maybe three places one could call a bar, but Stojic and Christie see demand for a cocktail bar and hope to play a part in making downtown a regional destination.
“There’s so much development going on and you have Novo Nordisk expanding,” Stojic said. “People are moving here, and this is something they want. Clayton has an amazing downtown, but I think we’re getting in on the ground floor. It’s in its infancy right now, and it will continue to grow and develop, and we want to be part of creating Clayton as a destination.”
Christie said a cocktail bar might seem more obvious in Raleigh, but she sees Clayton becoming a place that draws people from out of town.
“I think soon you’ll have people saying to their friends, ‘You guys should actually come here; we have everything,’ ” Christie said. “People will come to Clayton with a purpose.”
More than a century ago, local newspaper headlines proclaimed Clayton the wealthiest town of its size in the world. Christie believes the town is in another golden age and can think of no better way to celebrate that than with a cocktail.
“There must be something in the soil,” she said. “ ‘Revival’ means taking something old and making it cool again. We hope to be part of bring back to life something that’s already amazing.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson