Changes at Eastgate Crossing Shopping Center in Chapel Hill

BUSINESS

By Fraser Sherman

CHAPEL HILL – Two Chapel Hill stores in the Eastgate Crossing shopping center have changed ownership.  Guglhupf Bakery is under new ownership, and Chapel Hill Wild Bird is relocating.

Guglhupf, the Durham German bakery which opened a branch in Chapel Hill in 2017, is still in Eastgate Crossing and new owner Sean Scott said little will change at the store. Chapel Hill Wild Bird closed its Eastgate store last month when its lease expired. New owner Kayla Ewell says she’s in the process of leasing a smaller Chapel Hill location where the store can reopen.

Chapel Hill Wild Bird has been a fixture in town for 27 years. In July, Ewell, formerly the store manager, said that the new lease would have raised the rent above the former level of $10,000 a month. She said that rather than see a longstanding business close, she opted to step up and proposed taking over as a new owner. The offer was accepted.

Ewell’s Go Fund Me page says the initial plan to reopen at 9515 US 15-501 fell apart due to a lack of funding. Ewell turned to Go Fund Me with a $20,000 goal. The project generated $21,228 in less than a month for the first month’s rent, security deposit, utilities, displays, and local inventory. Ewell said she applied for a new retail space but the landlord hasn’t confirmed yet.

Wherever Chapel Hill Wild Bird opens, it will be a smaller store. “The one we had at Eastgate was too big in the first place.” The new store won’t be as full of stock at first, she predicted, but she hopes with time and success, that will change. She also hopes to get more involved in the Chapel Hill community, for example offering birding walks.

Sean Scott, is a co-founder of Florida’s Subculture Coffee and founder of Winston-Salem’s Known Coffee. He purchased the Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe and Biergarten in June. Scott told The Local Reporter that Subculture Coffee had a full breakfast and lunch menu, so moving from coffee shops to a full-service restaurant isn’t as drastic a change as it sounds.

Scott said he heard rumors in the Triangle that he’ll be shaking up the menu or the staff or creating radical change in some other way, but none of them are accurate. “There’s absolutely no changes to the menu. The pastry chef, the executive chef, they’re remaining in place. They have creative control, they’re experts at what they do.”

According to Scott, there is no truth to rumors that he’ll reduce the Eastgate Crossing Guglhupf to an “Uber-style grab-and-go establishment” that only accepts online orders, then hand them to customers for off-premises consumption. The website is changing, he said, but only to update it. “The current ordering platform is 20 years old. It doesn’t even format for mobile. We’re just trying to make it more friendly for 2023 rather than 2003.”

Scott said changes in operations won’t go beyond adding a few beverages to the menu. Besides that and the website, nobody’s likely to notice the changeover in ownership. He said the company’s expansion into Chapel Hill made sense at the time and still does because Guglhupf stands out. The Triangle has other bakeries but “there are not many great bakeries in any municipalities and we’re one of them.”

He added that while he understands people anticipate the worst when a local brand name changes ownership, he invites anyone concerned to meet him.

Kite Realty bought Eastgate Crossing from the previous owner, Federal Realty, two years ago. Scott said he’s only been working with them for a few months but hopes they’ll be as communicative as they’ve been during the transition in ownership. “I just expect my landlord to take care of the building and keep the area safe.”


Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.

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