At Hoppy Endings, it’s hard to avoid talking to the person next to you.
Tables, clustered inside and out, are small. Couches near the front door face each other, and bar stools huddle around a counter in the back.
That’s intentional, said owners Damian and Lydia Horne, who opened the bar and bottle shop last month in North Raleigh’s Litchford Village shopping center. They want Hoppy Endings to be a neighborhood hangout where newcomers can meet locals, couples can bring their children and customers can experience a small-town atmosphere in a fast-growing city.
“We wanted the ‘Cheers’ effect, where people recognize you and know your name,” Damian Horne, 33, said. “We want people to get to know each other. It builds a stronger community.”
Sandwiched between Milow’s restaurant and a Subway, the shop opens at noon every day and has a broad selection of beer and liquor. License plates and a map of North Carolina dot the walls, along with several wreaths that a local “who has fallen on hard times” asked if she could sell, Horne said.
The close-knit environment extends beyond the seating. If a customer wants a specific kind of alcohol but the shop doesn’t have it in stock, the the Hornes place an order for it. If folks are going on a last-minute fishing trip and want to take a six-pack along, they can call Horne, who regularly gives out his cellphone number, and he will open the shop early.
Children and teenagers – provided they are “well-behaved,” Horne said – are also welcome. After school, kids stop by the shop to use the free wireless internet and finish their homework.
“We want to help them be productive and stay out of trouble, and we want their parents to know they are safe,” Horne said.
Eventually, the couple plans to host family-friendly movie nights and teach classes on mixing drinks, home-brewing and cooking. Every month they plan to choose a different charity to support. In December, they collected donations for Toys for Tots, a program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that provides toys for children whose parents can’t afford them.
The Hornes, who have a 7-year-old daughter, grew up in Raleigh, attended Campbell University and live several blocks away from Hoppy Endings. Both worked in bars and clubs in the Triangle.
About two years ago, they started saving to open their own bar, dropping loose change in a jar on their kitchen counter. From the beginning, creating a tight-knit environment was key. They were frustrated that despite their history in Raleigh, they knew very few of their neighbors.
They chose to open Hoppy Endings in North Raleigh because the area was growing rapidly but had few bars. After some minor setbacks, including Damian injuring himself while outfitting the space, they opened in November.
“We’re beyond blessed and excited to help build a community,” Horne said.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler