For Chapel Hill and Carrboro businesses, 2018 was defined by significant turnover with the closing of several Franklin Street mainstays and the loss of Chapel Hill legend Mildred “Mama Dip” Council.
Council, owner of Mama Dip’s Kitchen and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce Hall of Famer, died on May 20 at the age of 89. Her restaurant, originally called Dip’s Country Kitchen, is known for its fried chicken, biscuits and pecan pie.
Council’s reach stretched far beyond Mama Dip’s Kitchen. She authored cookbooks, was heavily involved in the Chapel Hill community, hosted an annual community dinner to showcase cultural diversity in Orange County and encouraged her children and grandchildren in their own culinary pursuits.
Council’s family continues to manage Mama Dip’s Kitchen.
Several other prominent Chapel Hill restaurants saw major changes in 2018.
Spanky’s closed in late March after more than 40 years in business. The Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, which owned the restaurant known for its caricatures of famous UNC alumni that adorned the walls, opened a new restaurant called Lula’s in Spanky’s place.
Lula’s, which opened in June, serves Southern dishes like fried chicken, biscuits, macaroni and cheese and collard greens.
Greg Overbeck, marketing director and co-owner of the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, described Lula’s to The Daily Tar Heel in June as simple food, made the hard way.
Several couples came forward, saying they tried get into contact with the bakery, but were met with no response. Instead, Sugarland gave customers a form to receive compensation.
While Franklin Street experienced several closures, new restaurants also opened, including tea shops and pizza places.
Yaya Tea opened in May, specializing in freshly brewed tea and Japanese comfort foods.
Cha House, a Taiwanese tea house, also opened this year, offering boba tea, cream cheese-capped teas and Taiwanese street food.
Cha House co-owner Andy Adkisson told the DTH in August that he believes the tea house fits well in the Chapel Hill community, offering residents and students access to new foods like green onion pancakes and tea stew pork.
Chapel Hill residents now have no shortage of pizza offerings, as The Pizza Press and MidiCi joined Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza, Benny Capella’s, Italian Pizzeria III, Mellow Mushroom, I Love NY Pizza and Papa John’s.
The Pizza Press, which opened in late July, offers build-your-own pizzas and a 1920s newspaper-inspired theme. MidiCi, a California-based pizza chain, specializes in Neapolitan pizza.
Other restaurant openings included Hibachi & Company, B.GOOD, Heavenly Buffaloes and Ice Lab, a rolled ice cream shop.
New clothing stores also opened on Franklin Street. Francesca’s and Ivy & Leo both opened in Carolina Square. The boutiques both specialize in women’s clothing and accessories. Francesca’s also offers what retail manager Alexandria Rolon described to the DTH in February as knick-knacks and gift items.
Many businesses have undergone remodeling and rebranding as well.
YesterYears Brewery of Carrboro rebranded as Vecino Brewing Co. with the goal of becoming more of a community partner. Vecino co-founder Dave Larsen told the DTH in May that the new brewery is quite different than YesterYears, with a larger taproom and bar, more live music and events and an increase in taps from 12 to 20.
Country Fried Duck reopened under new ownership as Night School in October after CFD lost its liquor license. The bar is still redecorating to fit the new theme. Night School general manager Myles Bacon told the DTH in November that the venue plans to rededicate itself to the University and target students specifically.
The Cave, a bar and music venue that announced its closure in April, reopened in June after it was purchased by new owners Melissa Swingle and Autumn Spencer. Swingle told the DTH in May that, though the culture of the bar will stay the same, she wants to make the venue cleaner and friendlier to female musicians and attendees.
Looking ahead to 2019, it is unclear what new businesses will open. However, Cameron’s, a unique gift store in Carrboro that has been open for 42 years, announced it will close in early 2019.
In a letter posted on Twitter, owners Wendy Smith and Bridget Pemberton-Smith said they were retiring and ready to make a change in their lives.
“Our hearts are so full of love and sweet, sweet memories,” Smith and Pemberton-Smith said.
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