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A spirit that is not afraid

Well Red to open new coffee shop in Coffee Cat venue

<p>Well Red announced the new coffee shop on May 27.</p>

Well Red announced the new coffee shop on May 27.

Well Red is opening a new location in the venue of the former coffee shop, Coffee Cat, on Tichenor Avenue. The Fox, a new business venture for Well Red owners Richard and Crystal Tomasello, will open around April 15.

Well Red, a coffee shop and bookstore on Opelika Road announced The Fox's opening on its social media on March 27. The post explained that Well Red's story is continuing with the new addition of The Fox in Coffee Cat's venue in April 2024.

The announcement came a week after Coffee Cat announced its permanent closing on March 31. Coffee Cat has been one of Downtown Auburn's coffee and pastry staples since 2014. The venue shares the building with The Hound, a popular bar and restaurant.

The acquisition of Coffee Cat's venue will be the third addition to the Tomasellos' coffee locations. They opened the original Well Red on Opelika Road in June 2020. After the original location's success, the Tomasellos announced in Sept. 2023 that they were opening a second location on Donahue Dr, where they would share a corner with the Neighborhood Walmart. Richard explained that they hope to open the Donahue Well Red in June 2024.

Maddie Corbeau approached the Tomasellos about buying her shop after she decided to close The Coffee Cat.

"I contacted Well Red when I decided that it was time, because I couldn't imagine a better fit in this space." Corbeau explained. "I know them very well. Richard and Crystal are good friends of mine, and we worked together a little bit in the beginning of the dream stages of Well Red, because we have the same favorite bookstore and cafe in Asheville, North Carolina."

"We've always loved this place. Maddie helped us actually. She consulted with us on the coffee side of things and buying equipment and kind of the training and all for this place," Richard Tomasello said. "We've known her for years and you know, she really helped Well Red in the beginning, so we've always had a great relationship with her."

The Tomasellos plan to open The Fox around April 15 after two weeks of renovation on the Coffee Cat venue. Their third location will take a different approach from their original coffee and bookstore model. Instead of selling books, The Fox plans to further promote its coffees, teas and pastries.

Richard explained that they want The Fox to distinguish itself differently from the two Well Red locations. He said that since there is already a Downtown Auburn bookstore, Auburn Oil Co. Booksellers, The Fox will not sell new books. To avoid taking consumers away from The Hound, The Fox will also not serve beer or wine. 

The venue is on Tichenor Ave, with the City Parking Deck adjacent. Richard explained that they are still discussing The Fox's weekday and weekend hours. With Coffee Cat, many patrons appreciated the shop staying open until 1:00 a.m. on Fridays and the weekends.

"We're still working out the the hours and things like that, because the Coffee Cat did late nights. And you know, that is something completely different than I think anybody else coffee-wise is doing in town and everything," Richard said. "We've had some of their regulars approach us. They've approached us and tried to pitch us on keeping those hours going."

The Coffee Cat also sold products from local artists and vendors. Richard explained they are evaluating the idea for The Fox. He said that since they are in partnership with The Hound, the venue will be used as extra space for large private events held by The Hound. 

Depending on the space available after renovation, vendors may be able to sell their products, but Richard explained that that would be planned later. Also undecided is the fate of music performances held at the venue, a popular occurrence at Coffee Cat.

For The Fox, many of Coffee Cat's previous employees will work for the new coffee shop. Richard said that he and his wife are meeting with employees of The Coffee Cat and seeing if they'd like to work at The Fox.

"There are a couple of them that are graduating in May, and so with us shutting down for two weeks to do kind of minor renovations, some of them have said the timing just doesn't work." Richard said. "So we know that we're going to lose a couple of them and we're just trying to figure out what kind of staffing [is needed] there. But there will be a lot of the same faces there for sure."

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Numerous customers, musicians, employees and students filled the Coffee Cat venue during the farewell party on the evening of March 29. Local acts Bedhead, Molly Mac, Varsity Blues and Weary Pursuit performed at the event. Corbeau also gave a farewell speech to onlookers, and employees talked about their experience working at Coffee Cat.

Corbeau revealed that the store's staff held the party and commemoration. 

“It's just really beautiful. I’m having to take breathers and come outside by myself and collect myself actually." Corbeau said.

Musician Bedhead, whose real name is Isaac Keller, opened the farewell party with himself on the acoustic guitar and vocals, bassist Trion Fancher and drummer Crawford Merk. Bedhead has performed numerous times at Coffee Cat.

As he performed his single, "The Flowering of a Person," Bedhead recalled his experience performing at Coffee Cat throughout the years. 

"Coffee Cat just kind of gave me a place where I could play how I wanted or feel how I wanted. It really gave me a space where I could kind of grow into my music." Keller reminisced. "Maddie has always been supportive of me and my music and countless others."

Molly Mac wrote a tribute song for Coffee Cat and sang it as the final song of her set. She had the crowd help her perform the song. 

"Thank you, Maddie, thank you, Coffee Cat, for all your generosity. We won't forget, [...]" Molly Mac sang, "because this coffee shop has rescued me. " 

As acts performed, Corbeau told the audience to grab a free book before they left. Plants, vases, and other knickknacks were also up for grabs. 

After seeing the outpouring of love for The Coffee Cat on the shop's farewell announcement, Richard and his wife hope to keep providing that space for the patrons. 

"There's a lot of people that have fond memories of it, and love and [will] miss it, and we understand that. And hopefully we can, you know, be a space for all those people and kind of continue what she's [Corbeau] done," he said.

 For Corbeau, the excitement lies in seeing what the Tomasellos will do with the venue. 

"Them coming here and basically taking over our lease is best case scenario," Corbeau said. "I couldn't imagine anyone else being here, and I'm excited to see what they do with the place."

Michaela Yielding | News Editor

Michaela Yielding is a senior in journalism currently serving as the news editor. She has been with The Auburn Plainsman since fall 2023. 

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