December 31, 1992 - First Night Festival...
...we opened a street coffee cart, Pony Espresso, within Piazza Bergamo in Downtown Greenville, SC. The chilled New Year’s Eve crowd wanted hot chocolate & mochas. Friends & family, 9 in all, took turns making frantic trips to the nearby grocery for more milk.
Steve operated the cart during the weekday mornings while working evenings at the local newspaper. Dana continued as a graphic artist for a small downtown firm and teamed up with Steve on Friday and Saturday evenings. We met many new friends & learned alot about coffee.
Wheels Were Spinning...
The next step was to find a permanent indoor location. Steve and I shared our dream with a fellow cyclist, and then created a plan. We bought books: business start-up, partnership, layout & design and recipe books. Many possible business names were thrown about and debated. We researched, negotiated, planned, got advice, cleaned, painted, built, stocked, got many inspections, hired & trained.
We leased 3600 SF of undeveloped underground space on the corner of Main St. & Coffee St. The largest room of three rooms was designed as the main cafe filled with cozy seating, the front bar/service area and a tiny kitchen. We named an adjacent room "the gallery," and dedicated the walls for local artists. The third was transformed into a theater where Jeff Sumerel directed live improv. shows & screened independent films.
May 1, 1995...
The doors of Coffee Underground opened to a lively crowd. Luckily, Greenville craved this new option to the bar scene. A relaxing, comfortable non-smoking place to enjoy good coffee, sandwiches, homemade desserts, to take in a show & meet friends.
Over the Years...
After one year, Steve and Dana became the only two owners when the third partner went on to other ventures. We soon expanded the menu by adding beer, wine and cocktails, and began table service in the evenings.
A few years later, Steve got an offer from The Wall Street Journal in NYC, so he took off for the Big Apple. He has since moved to Paris, France where he lives with his wife, son and dog Gaston.
Dana Lowie, the last of the original three owners, continues to successfully operate CU along with a staff of 21. In 2008, the purchase of another 2000 SF has allowed us to expand the business, with a new kitchen and a new sultry "Red Room" for additional seating.
Coffee Underground is well into its 14th year, and is now considered a landmark of Downtown.
Here is a toast to many more happy years at CU.