Q&A with Fleming Fuller, general manager of Franklin Street bar "He's Not Here"
Fleming Fuller began working at local bar He’s Not Here while he was a student at UNC checking IDs. After moving up the ranks as a barback and bartender, he’s now served as the home of the Blue Cup’s general manager for six years. Summer Editor Rachel Jones talked to him about the history behind the bar and how it keeps its doors open in the summer.
The Daily Tar Heel: What do you think makes this place the Chapel Hill institution that it is?
Fleming Fuller: He’s Not’s a beautiful thing, really. We’re a time capsule in Chapel Hill. We’ve been in the same location doing the same thing for 45 years. We’ve not changed our business model; we’ve never sold food, we’ve never sold liquor, we only sell beer. And we’ve kept to the original state of the building. We’ve added aesthetically pleasing things like the murals and stuff over the years and fixed the bathrooms.
But one of the best things about it is it’s like I said the time capsule aspect. People can come back and say “I met my wife or husband here back in the day” (or) “my parents went here.” “My grandparents went here” is something that’s now starting to happen.
And just the tradition of He’s Not associated with the University and University athletics, where so much on Franklin Street is constantly churning. I mean, Carolina Ale House just went out of business. They’d only been here a year and a half. We’ve been here for 45 years this year.
DTH: And do you find that it’s still a student customer base in the summer?
FF: No, actually. We very much during the summer — this summer moreso than others —we’ve seen more of a transition towards tourism, really. Tourism and then the visiting alumni and alumni that are in town for various purposes. It’s transitioned more towards wedding parties and groups like that. Not necessarily saying that there’s a bustling tourism season in Chapel Hill, there is far from that.
This has been one of the slower summers we’ve ever seen in Chapel Hill as a whole. We’ve been trying to figure out exactly why — especially with the constant construction on the street you’d think it would bring more business to the street, but I have yet to see that. But it’s not so much students, moreso older adults. I’d say our average age is closer to 30 than it is 20.
DTH: What do you think sets this summer apart?
FF: There’s been a constant trend of decrease, a constant trend of less business for the past five years that I’ve seen personally in this role. There’s less foot traffic on the street on any given night, businesses start closing earlier, keeping different, weirder hours — there are restaurants that close at 8 p.m. I don’t eat dinner before 8 p.m., so it’s sort of been an unfortunate circumstance for me. But I definitely have seen a lot less foot traffic and a lot less just general customers on the street. I think the summer school enrollment’s probably less this year than other years, at least that’s been the trend in years past.
DTH: Do you change your hours at all over the summer?
FF: No. We maintain our hours. Every year the same hours. Every year, no matter what. The only days we’re closed are Easter — that’s not always the case actually, we’re just closed Easter afternoon, Thanksgiving itself and then a couple of weeks over Christmas break.
DTH: You sell Blue Cups to UNC alumni associations for game days. Is that a significant revenue source for you?
FF: Not necessarily. We don’t upcharge. We sell them at cost to these places and let them decide how to use them, as long as they’re not gouging customers.
Thanks for reading.
Share on social media?