For the past six weeks, Kevin McLaughlin, owner and operator of Larema Coffee House on Washington Street, has been busy brewing coffee and forming relationships and bonds with community residents.
“I’m really pleased with how the business side of things has been going. But this place is also about community collaborations and being a place where connections are made between people. That’s my goal,” McLaughlin said on Wednesday at the coffee shop. “For me, the past six weeks have been about caring for a community, and that’s been the most fulfilling part of bringing Larema Coffee House to life.”
Larema Coffee House is located across from the Rocky Mount campus of Edgecombe Community College at 121 Tarboro St. Parking is available street side or in the parking lot between the coffee house building and Harambee Square.
McLaughlin said he had been searching for a downtown location for a coffee shop in the RTP area and couldn’t find the right fit. He got word of the downtown revitalization going on in Rocky Mount and worked with City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, John Jesso and a few other downtown stakeholders to help him get a grasp of the local community development going on.
“I formed relationships with so many great people who all contributed to Larema Coffee House existing today,” he said.
Larema Coffee House is located in the former First National Bank building on the corner of Tarboro and Sunset. There are windows taking up two whole walls, bathing the store in bright light. McLaughlin said the gorgeous tile and wooden floors were buried below multiple layers of floor and concrete and every effort has been made to carefully bring out the original bones and beauty of the 110-year-old building.
The store offers fresh coffee beverages, teas, beer and wine as well as a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu featuring toasts, sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads and sweets.
“Being a part of the remodeling of this building was the best thing about starting the business — and one of the most stressful parts of opening the store. I love the history of the building, but I felt such a sense of responsibility to preserve as much as I could and do as little harm to the building as I could — I felt a sense of duty to take care of the building,” McLaughlin said. “It got stressful, but it’s been an honor to take such care to bring this building back to what it once was.”
McLaughlin is excited to offer opportunities for people to mix and mingle and have conversations at the Larema Coffee House. Upcoming on the calendar are open mic nights, live music, karaoke, food events, educational programs and poetry readings.
Coming up this weekend, the store will be part of the first annual Downtown Halloween Bar Crawl. Tickets, available on the Facebook page of any of the participating businesses, are $10 in advance. Bar Crawl participants will get to visit Bin and Barrel Wine Shop, Moe and D’s, Prime Smokehouse, Larema Coffee House and Aroma’s Lounge. Each stop, lasting about 45 minutes, will offer refreshments and beverages for ticket holders, as well as a full menu of other items to purchase. The event will start at 6 p.m. and end after the last stop at Aroma’s Lounge. There will be prizes for best costumes.
Larema Coffee House is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. The store is open later for some events and is available to host meetings and group events.
“I believe that coffee shops allow space for people to have conversations and learn about each other — and a place everyone can feel safe to express themselves. I think that’s important,” McLaughlin said. “I want this space to provide opportunities for that.”