After nearly a year of delays, Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews’ sister storefront, Prologue Used and Rare Books, has received a go-ahead from Chapel Hill to begin its opening process, owner Jaime Sanchez said.
Epilogue has become a popular coffee and study spot on Franklin Street since its soft opening in November 2019. Located in the suite next door, Prologue will more than double the coffee shop's current capacity, adding 2,200 square feet.
Prologue, which will include a meeting space, rare book collections and an area for supporting local artists, is expected to cost $24,000. Sanchez said he would hire at least four new staff members for the space.
He added that an announcement on an official opening date should be up on the Prologue social media sites in the next few weeks.
Sanchez first applied for the extension in June 2021. Prologue was ready to open in August, but the permits to do so were not approved by the Chapel Hill Building and Development Services until this month.
When Epilogue opened in 2019, the time between its application and permit approval was only about three months.
Sanchez said, along with being busy during the holiday season, the main reason for the delay was inefficient communication between the business and the Town.
“The jargon that is spoken with permitting is not necessarily something everybody would be versed in, so it quickly made it difficult to communicate with permitting,” he said.
Robert Key, commercial plan reviewer for Chapel Hill Building and Development Services, said this was mainly because the Prologue project was not as simple as opening the original shop.
“What we’re doing is combining two spaces," Key said. "So we have to make sure that we have sufficient restroom capacity and fire protection."
Sanchez hired an architect to better communicate with the Town’s permitting services, despite his own previous experience in store design. Although it strained the business’ finances during the pandemic, he said the hiring helped to move the Prologue project along at a much faster rate.
Sanchez said one of the primary reasons for opening Prologue is to improve the business' capacity.
Since its opening, Epilogue has been crowded, he said, and the extension will help provide space for more customers.
"The business is thriving which is fantastic, but at the same time, we couldn’t house a lot of people because we didn’t have enough space," Sanchez said. "With Prologue, we hopefully do.”
Matt Gladdek, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership — an organization that supports local businesses — said Epilogue has provided a space for people who may not have been welcomed by other businesses in the past.
From its hiring processes to the authors it promotes, he said Epilogue has created a diverse environment in which everyone is accepted.
“Epilogue is a place where you really see a broad cross-section of Chapel Hill, and I think that is so important for the overall health of East Franklin Street,” Gladdek said. “As new businesses open, having a place that is so community-oriented is so important.”
With several businesses opening up on Franklin Street in the past six months, Gladdek said it seems Chapel Hill is moving beyond the impacts of the pandemic.
“Everything opening is a sign that people are taking a risk and thinking that Franklin Street is going to continue to improve," he said.
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