Council considers café at Station

Conover City Council considered an area prospect as a café owner in Conover Station during a recent meeting.

City Manager Donald Duncan Jr. gave a brief presentation to council members at a Monday meeting highlighting a 10-foot-by-10-foot area on the third floor of Conover Station, which officials hope will hold a café.

Duncan said several months ago, the city planning department was approached by a Hickory woman and her husband about opening a coffee shop in Conover. The couple was not identified at the meeting because consideration is not finalized.

Duncan, along with several Conover department heads, discussed with council members having a coffee shop with a sitting area similar to what is seen in Hickory's Barnes and Noble bookstore. Duncan said one afternoon, he and Conover Planning Director Lance Hight visited the Barnes and Noble bookstore and counted 52 people in the store at about 1:30 p.m. on a weekday. He said several of those people were sitting in the coffee-shop area.

Duncan said no cooking can be done in Conover Station, so any baked goods or sandwiches sold in the café have to be made off-site and transported each day.

Conover Mayor Pro Tem Kyle Hayman asked Duncan what type of foot-traffic was expected in Conover Station when it opens. Duncan said, currently, the Conover Library Branch, which will move to the third floor of Conover Station, serves about 60,000 people a year or an average of about 200 people per day.

"More people are using the library than ever before because of the economy and large unemployment," Duncan said, adding residents use the library's resources to apply for jobs instead of paying for Internet usage at their homes.

In addition to the library, Greenway Transit Authority will also have administrative offices on the second floor of Conover Station. By 2012, Duncan said Greenway expects to have 20 to 40 employees working at the location.

A Conover Station vision is to set up an outdoor patio area with tables and chairs on the third floor. Patrons can check-out a book from the library and go outside to sit on the patio with a cup of coffee. Duncan said, if the owners wanted, they could invest in additional tables and chairs to be placed in the N.C. Department of Transportation area on the third floor, until the depot opens in the second phase of Conover Station.

Besides discussing foot-traffic for the café's success, Duncan pointed out that by having a business owner in Conover Station, who is in a contractual lease agreement with the city, will mean someone can "look out for the best interest" of the city and Conover Station.

City Council is considering an 18-month lease agreement with low rent for the café tenants. Terms and conditions will be decided at a later date, once council members receive a business proposal from the potential clients.

Councilwoman Penny Corpening asked Duncan if the city is liable if something happens while the café is operating. Duncan emphasized that additional insurance coverage is another item that has to be included in the lease agreement.

"(Having a café) has been in our plans (for Conover Station)," said Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. "It's an added bonus to citizens using the library."

Council agreed to meet with the clients to discuss plans for a café in Conover Station. The couple is asked to prepare a business plan, as well as their investment schedule.

"It's a fixed location," Hight said. "This will give them a chance to get their roots down and expand."

Duncan agreed.

"(The clients') success is our success," he said.

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