Author to open new cafe, bookstore

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Leonard Johnson, an electrician with Pemberton Inc., installs an LED Edison bulb in a pendant light Thursday at Books and Beans at Rocky Mount Mills.


Staff Writer

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Rocky Mount Mills campus is going to be the home of another new specialty business in about a month, with a New York Times best-selling author to be a co-operator.

Etaf Rum, 30, is preparing the future Books and Beans in the historic Canteen building, just steps down from the old water tank. Rum is anticipating the business will be open by about the start of October.

In the meantime, Rum and a group of partners have acquired the Tipsy Tomato pizzeria on the campus and have plans for a fresh start for that establishment.

As for the future Books and Beans, Rum told the Telegram the business will offer cold and hot coffees as well as cappuccinos and lattes.

Rum said the future Books and Beans will serve breakfast and lunch.

Rum said for breakfast, there will be eggs and bacon on bread and for lunch, there will be cold and hot New York-style delicatessen sandwiches.

As for the clientele she is hoping to attract, Rum emphasized diversity, saying, “I really want to bridge the gap and I want to make this place inclusive to all cultures, all communities, all people and all demographics.”

She said the future Books and Beans was inspired by an Instagram page she launched when she was teaching literature at Nash Community College.

“And I would bring coffee with me to class — and we’d talk about books over coffee,” Rum said.

Rum said she created an account on the popular social media site and that her students could see on her page the books she recommended for reading.

“And so over the years, I’ve always dreamt about having an actual place, a meeting place where people can come and read and drink coffee and gather — and socialize and learn,” she said.

She said when she learned last year the Canteen space was available, “I thought it would be the perfect place to start this community.”

She said she is not yet sure about whether the future Books and Beans will serve supper.

She said given the Rocky Mount Mills campus being a busy place on the weekends, the business probably will be open on Friday and Saturday nights.

“But mostly it’s a morning-type place,” she said.

As for the bookstore part of the future Books and Beans, she said the business will not be a full-blown bookstore.

She said she wants to try to bring a selection of about 10 books a month, on a rotating basis, for sale.

The Rocky Mount Mills campus is located off Falls Road and just off the expressway-like U.S. 64. The campus is a mixed-use development of Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Co.

Presently, the campus offers craft beer and eating establishments, along with the 4,000-square-foot Power House event venue and immediate proximity to the Tar River.

A major addition came a few months ago with the opening of the River and Twine Tiny House Hotel.

Rum is among a group of partners in the Barley and Burger restaurant off Zebulon Road in the northwestern part of the city.

Rum said the plan is for one of her partners in the Barley and Burger, Brandon Clarke, to work with her at the future Books and Beans.

As for the Tipsy Tomato, Rum, Clarke, Kristi Ellis and Travis Ellis are the new owners.

Kristi Ellis owns Goat Island, which is a beer and wine store and bar just steps away from the Power House. Her husband, Travis Ellis, sells insurance and is part owner of the Barley and Burger.

The Tipsy Tomato had been operated by Angelo Carlone. Carlone left to open a pizzeria, Slice Queen, in Blacksburg, Va. Blacksburg is the home of Virginia Tech University.

Rum said with the experience of her and her partners in the food service industry, they decided acquiring the Tipsy Tomato would be a good idea.

Rum said she and her partners received the keys to the Tipsy Tomato last month. She said they are keeping a person Carlone had employed at the Tipsy Tomato but the plan is to add more employees.

In fact, she said the business will be closed until Sept. 10 so new employees can be trained.

“The most drastic change that we’re making is that we’re going to be open for lunch,” she said.

She noted this is something people on the campus wanted.

She said the plan is for the Tipsy Tomato to keep the evening hours but probably be closed on Mondays.

“We remodeled the place on the inside, cleaned up the kitchen, got a new health inspection to come down,” she said.

Rum grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn and has lived in Rocky Mount for about a decade.

An N.C. State University alumna, Rum’s Times best-selling novel, titled “A Woman is No Man,” came out in March.