RUDE AWAKENING COFFEE SHOP: KEEPING FAYETTEVILLE HISTORY ALIVE
Those who choose to eschew the stereotypical caffeine-junkie routine of drearily heading out to the nearest Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for their morning coffee fix, perhaps in favor of something locally owned and different, could likely find themselves in downtown Fayetteville’s Rude Awakening coffee
Though the story goes all the way back to 1914, the latest chapter started in the mid-1980’s. Molly and Bruce Arnold stood in front of a hollowed out husk of a store in historic downtown Fayetteville, surrounded by the din of the “Sunday on the Square” festival. Molly’s reaction to the sad state of the building was one she would echo frequently over the next few years, “I wish they would do something with this place…” Bruce, who would later become her husband, always had the same response: “There is no ‘they.” Luckily for downtown Fayetteville, there eventually was a “they,” and “they” were Molly and Bruce themselves. What those same bold coffee aficionados may not know, as they sit sipping their morning jo while surrounded by the small store’s brightly colored walls full of quirky memorabilia, is that they also happen to be sitting in the center of a story that started a century ago; one that could have easily ended with a wrecking ball rather than a sip of coffee.
Bruce Arnold recalls this part of the story while sitting in his booth at the farmer’s market on Franklin Street, a block away from Rude Awakening’s storefront. He is bearing the currently sweltering heat to sell bags of Larry’s Coffee beans; the same kind they use at the store, and also a locally owned business. Helping local businesses has become a theme with Molly and Bruce. A page on Rude Awakening’s website titled “Links to some of our favorite places” is entirely dedicated to showcasing other local businesses in the area, and Molly Arnold was the 2003 winner of the Athena award: an award given by the local chamber of commerce to those who endeavor to help professional women in the community. “I think everybody deserves an opportunity to be in business,” said Bruce, going on to call Molly’s work in the community “above and beyond” the norm.
In the store itself, the community spirit is palpable, and not just because the line of coffee lovers stretching to the back wall makes it feel like half the community is there already. A framed Rude Awakening T-shirt signed by actress Olivia Newton-John hangs just as proudly as a slew of posters for local art shows and even a humble “roommate wanted” sign printed out on plain white printer paper. The feeling of “this is our place, but it’s also yours” hangs in the air.
Of course, that the Arnold’s seem so clearly to want to share the building with others reflects one of the key motivations behind their idea to purchase it: to preserve it for the community. Bruce recalls that, at the time they first laid eyes on the place, it had already been “boarded up.” After being “Johnson’s Café” and then “Brady’s Soda Shop,” it looked like the location that had spent the better part of a century providing a place for people to talk while getting a bite to eat was doomed to be an abandoned relic, collecting dust until it would inevitably be leveled in favor of new construction.
Not only did they save it from that fate, they took special efforts to make sure it was preserved exactly as it was. Their dedication in this endeavor led to them receiving a Carraway Award in 2001 from the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina. Rude Awakening’s website proudly notes that the storefront is authentic down to the leaded glass paneling. The idea to make it a coffee shop, Bruce says, came from a desire to fill a logical gap in the community. “At the time, there was nothing to do in Fayetteville at night unless you wanted to drink alcohol,” said Bruce, who refers to himself as the secretary of the company and Molly as the president. He went on to admit that, despite their wide selection of fancy caffeinated treats, he himself doesn’t have much of a taste for anything beyond the most simple cup of coffee. “I don’t do flavors,” he said, preferring a cup of black coffee to the lattes many of their customers enjoy.
Rude Awakening is located in downtown Fayetteville at 227 Hay Street. Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, you can at least drive by and appreciate seeing a group of people enjoying their favorite morning drink in front of a place that’s still vibrantly alive, when it could easily have been the boarded up skeleton of what was once a piece of Fayetteville history. Though she might have been surprised at the circumstances, the Molly Arnold who stood in front of this place in the 80’s would undoubtedly be beaming. They did something with it.