0.3 miles from downtown Durham
530 Foster Street, Durham 27701
Hours: Mon – Fri 7 AM to 5 PM, Sat 7:30 AM to 5 PM, Sun 8 AM to 5 PM
The Coffee Shop Vibe: Serious, contemporary, professional
Monday January 27, 2020 @ 2:37PM
It’s overcast today. The cloud cover and spitting rain puts a damper on things, and the Foster Street coffee shop feels muffled. It’s very quiet at this time of the day. There are 8 people here in total – mostly young professionals – 9 including me. There is no conversation at all. If it weren’t for the tunes playing softly in the background, it would feel a library study room. This vibe is very similar to the experience 8 months ago (see the full review further below)
Jack Johnson, who was also playing during my initial visit, Michael Bublé, Griffin House, Van Morrison, and Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry About a Thing” provides the backdrop for the feel good, polite, unobtrusive, coffee shop vibe.
Friday May 31, 2019 @ 3:02 PM
Foster Street Coffee is part of the revitalization of downtown Durham, occupying first floor retail space in the new Liberty Warehouse Apartments. In 2017, developers turned the Liberty Warehouse, Durham’s last standing tobacco auction warehouse, into a 320,000-square-foot mixed-use complex on the edge of Durham Central Park.
The historic No. 3 Liberty Warehouse was the last of the large tobacco auction warehouses built in the Durham warehouse district. Constructed around 1940, just to the north of the Mangum Warehouses and extending from Rigsbee Ave. to Foster St. along West Corporation St., the Liberty was the venue where well known auctioneer ‘Speed’ Riggs plied his trade.
At age 18, with only a sixth-grade education, Riggs reportedly became the world’s youngest tobacco auctioneer. Several years later, he began working at the Liberty Tobacco Warehouse, where he earned the nickname “Speed,” because his quick, rhythmic chant helped him sell piles of tobacco quicker than his colleagues.
Not much is left to remind you of the era of Speed, however. The developers preserved very little of the original warehouse. Despite its history, the revitalized Liberty Warehouse feels new, and this includes Foster Street Coffee.
Sitting inside the café, a gas fireplace separates the room in half, fairy lights and paper globe lamps that hang on strings from the high ceiling give the airy room, accentuated in cool blues, whites and grays, warmth. Cushy chairs and couches set around coffee tables also add comfort to the modern architecture design style. The affect reminds me of a clean, well-lighted hotel lobby – think Aloft.
The first time I visited Foster Street Coffee, a mid-week afternoon, it was quiet. There were very few people there, and no one was talking. Folks were either working on their laptop or were on their phones. The background music was soft, but clearly audible because there was nothing else competing with it.
When I returned today, there were more people – 9 people in total (the café probably seats 20). There is no music. Several of the people are in groups of 2 and 3, collaborating on work or studies, or just talking. The rest are working on their laptops. Most of the folks here are young, in their 20s, I’d say. Young professionals. As with my first visit, today’s is a serious vibe.
I was at the cafe for 20 minutes before music started playing. Perhaps the stillness reminded the staff that there was no background tunes, which was something that needed to be remedied. Free Fallin’ by John Mayer, Never Know by Jack Johnson, and similar acoustic tunes play at low volume.
The café is located in an area of downtown that includes craft breweries, farm-to-table eateries, bars, music halls, and even a place to toss axes, and on Saturday mornings (again in Wednesday’s) the adjacent Central Park hosts a vibrant farmer’s market. Like Foster Street, most of these are new businesses occupying older buildings, and the area continues to grow – directly across the street is a five-story apartment complex is going up.
Valerio Coffee Roasters, a small micro-roaster of Fair-trade, organic, single origin speciality coffees outside Philadelphia, provides Foster Street its beans. As one of the barista’s told me, they didn’t want to feel like they had to choose from one of the local roasters.
If you like this review, click here for a list of all the other reviews of coffee shops in Durham.