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Jun 2, 2008 08:52 AM

3 Cups - Chapel Hill, NC

Some of you may have received this email, but just wanted to pass the word along in case you haven't. I tried calling this morning and no one answered, so they may have already closed their doors...

More at

Email message:

"Onwards and Upwards

As many of you know, 3CUPS has had a tumultuous relationship with the landlord who purchased the Courtyard a year or so after we opened our doors. And we've been in the newspaper far too many times in articles which have nothing to do with the wine, coffee and teas we are so enthusiastic about.

With that nebulous introduction, we have good news and sad news this morning.

The Sad News… 3CUPS has closed our downtown Chapel Hill store and we will be taking the summer off. We are sorry and sad to be leaving the West End. We’ve made lots of friends here, and we hate to leave you. But the lack of parking in our current location has become untenable.

The Good News... we will re-open this fall in a new larger location in Chapel Hill on Elliot Road, just down a bit from Whole Foods Market, in the Village Plaza near the ABC store. We're excited about taking all we've learned in the last 4 years and applying it to our new store with an ocean of parking right out the front door! We promise to keep all the coffee, tea, wine and chocolates you’ve grown to depend on, and we look forward to seeing all our friends in the new expanded location.

For those who just can't bear living without your 3CUPS supplies, we are working on potential delivery programs and other alternatives to fill the gap while the shop is closed. We'll let you know you what we’ve come up as well as updates and announcements in upcoming Friday E-Mails."

Les Alexander

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  1. I read about this in the paper awhile ago, and am not one bit surprised, even though the merchants there tried to alleviate the parking issue by offering free valet parking. Really too bad - Courtyard is a nice space, but there's some nutty stuff going on there.

    6 Replies
    1. re: romansperson

      From the Herald-Sun article:

      "Meanwhile, [Courtyard owner] Young launched a valet parking service that was offered free to all customers except those of SandwHich and 3 Cups, who were charged $10."

      The immaturity is simply amazing. Sadly, it seems to epitomize Chapel Hill these days...bickering, often out-of-town real estate interests holding little regard for the vibrancy of downtown.

      1. re: peetoteeto

        And one wonders how anyone would know which establishment you'd be going to ... unless the landlord was having you followed from the lot!

        1. re: romansperson

          or if one is getting a cup of coffee AND locopops? Do you pay $5 or do they meter your time in each location and charge proportionally?

          I understand the owners of the property are in it to make money but it seems that they'll make quite a lot more if their buildings are occupied than if they are empty. Every time I walk down Franklin and see the unleased store fronts, I'm disappointed.

          Hopefully 3Cups will find a better situation down the hill.

          1. re: brokegradstudent

            It is my understanding that SandWhich and 3Cups were putting their rent in escrow in an attempt to force the landlord to do something about the parking situation, so maybe he was trying to make a buck on the valet service, lol. But he can't really do anything about the parking unless the owner of the lot decides to cooperate. Which so far he isn't.

            And I have to wonder if 3Cups will be successful in their new place. The coffee shop that used to be in there went out of business quite awhile ago.

            1. re: romansperson

              While I liked the nice atmosphere of 3Cups, I will wind up going to the new location a lot more since it's closer to my house, though if they were open on Sunday's I would go even more. I've stopped going to Sandwhich nearly as much since I can't park there easily for lunch so hopefully they will move somewhere else as well.

              1. re: romansperson

                While I understand SandWhich's and 3Cups' frustration over the parking situation, I think they're being unreasonable—or at the very least, unrealistic—about what the landlord can and cannot do to address the situation.

                Fact is, Chapel Hill's Land Use Management Ordinance mandates a MAXIMUM of one off-street parking space per 300 sq. ft. of floor area for general retail spaces. Furthermore, the maximum number of permissible spaces may be reduced by stormwater management and greenspace requirements, mandatory setbacks, public right-of-ways, etc. So even if the landlord and property owner wanted to increase the amount of available parking, they're options for doing so are extremely limited.

                So in this architect's opinion, if the parking situation was the main issue, SandWhich's and 3Cups beef isn't with the landlord, it's with the city's LUMO.

      2. I no longer patronize any establishment in this facility, with the exception of Bonne Soiree (and I wish they'd move) because of this absurd situation.

        And I like some of these businesses, and if they move, I will patronize them again.

        1. With all the empty buildings on Franklin Street, you think they could just knock one over and put in some more parking.

          7 Replies
          1. re: inmybackpages

            Except Chapel Hill hates cars and parking spaces, at least downtown. Which is why I rarely go down there unless I'm walking over from work. That's part of the reason it's so hard to fill those buildings - no one wants to hassle with the parking. I expect a place like Bonne Soiree can survive despite the drawbacks - it's just so good that people will deal with the problems - but other places face an uphill battle to be successful.

            1. re: romansperson

              Dare I suggest people take the bus. It's free & you never have to park. I live in Carrboro and many an evening I will walk back from Chapel Hill, for Durham, the TTA does pretty well going, & catch a cab back. It's cheaper and more relaxing than a car. But I'm an old New Yorker & we cannot drive;-)

              1. re: Rory

                Not everyone in Chapel Hill lives within walking distance of a bus line that operates to Franklin Street at afternoon hours, and taxis are ridiculous in Chapel Hill - there's no standardization. Buses can be horribly unreliable for return trips as well...

                1. re: Rory

                  I live about 5 miles east of Hillsborough in the more rural part of Orange County, so I have to drive just to get to a bus, lol. When I'm at work, I can walk to downtown CH and back, but we generally choose to go elsewhere for eats evenings or weekends. It's just easier and there are lots of other good choices.

                  1. re: Rory

                    Are you suggesting that when several of us "senior citizens" wish to come to a destination restaurant like Bon Soiree or The Lantern in the evening, from Durham say, should take a bus? Or ride bikes? One reason for Durham's great restaurant successes in recent years, compared to Chapel Hill's, is the willingness of the owners to accommodate to customers/diners. If Chapel Hill is to be more than a Spanky's-Carolina Coffee Shop place, reality about "the evening out experience" needs to extend to local governing authorities who abhor cars.

                    1. re: walras

                      Maybe I'm crazy, because I do live walking distance, but aren't there tons of public parking lots at the corner of Franklin and Columbia and that area? And don't some of the restaurants have valet parking?

                      Rory, as a former city-girl myself, I completely understand. We actually chose where we wanted to live down here based on walking distance to the lively stuff.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        The West End merchants (Carolina Brewery, 411 West, etc.) do offer free valet parking, though oddly enough finding a spot down in that area yourself isn't that bad, usually. I am sure the older/disabled customers who cannot walk far appreciate the service, though.

                        The vicinity of Franklin and Columbia, on the other hand, actually doesn't have that many spots nearby which are available hourly to random visitors/customers - lots of those off-street spaces are leased and not available to just anyone. The two lots on Rosemary St. that have hourly parking are fairly small. Needless to say, at certain times it can be a real hassle to find a spot and there have been accusations of predatory towing practices at times as well. Also, if you are handicapped, that area can be really difficult, if not impossible, to access even when it isn't busy. There's no place in that vicinity to even drop a handicapped person off while you park without creating a huge traffic jam.

                        I really do think it's one of the big reasons there are so many empty storefronts along Franklin Street east of Columbia. College students alone aren't enough to keep up business in a lot of cases, and I know a lot of people (like myself) cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill at all - not within walking distance or on a bus line - and since there are lots of other interesting places with good food we can go to that offer free, easy access, Chapel Hill loses out.

                        In any event, I wish 3Cups and the remaining Courtyard businesses both luck - there's some good stuff there and it's too bad there's been so much grief for them.

              2. This is a good move IMO. With TJ, WH, and SS already nearby and FM coming soon, there will be a critical mass of good food shopping within a ~2 mile radius.

                1. On 3 cups Facebook page they have a grand opening event listed for October 29. I can't tell from the page if this means that they are already open in their new location, or if they'll be opening next week, but either way it's good news.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: mclp

                    I walked by t3 cups last Friday, not open but close. I loved the old place and the atmosphere, the new place to me doesn't have it *sigh* icky mall vibe.

                    1. re: mclp

                      There is a sign in the window now saying "open Monday 7am" -- presumably this Monday, 10/27.

                      1. re: GogglesPaisano

                        I stopped in this afternoon. The coffee set-up is the same. Order by the type of coffee and size of press, they grind it fresh and set it to steep. The also do to-go cups of brewed coffee. No espresso machine. They had, I think, 8 coffees from Counter Culture and a similar number of teas. Food selection is still fairly limited (pastries, breads, some local cheeses).

                        There is only a bit more seating in the new location. No free wi-fi (that my laptop could find) which is either great or terrible, I can't decide which. The lighting is better. It still feels new but I didn't get an icky mall vibe.

                        The biggest change is the wine section. Probably 3/4 of the space is wine now. A broad selection of wines, mostly (all?) European sorted by country of origin. Prices are concentrated in the $15-$20 range.

                        The biggest change is the wine. I'd guess 3/4 of the space is