Dang and Blast To The Tarboro Housing Street Project – Something Fabulous Is Happening – The Preservation of the First National Bank – Soon to Open Larema Coffee

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about coffee at Larema Coffee Shop?”
A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, and S.F. Houghtlin

I’m in the doldrums over this wrong solution for more affordable housing. When people have told me I can’t stop it, I refuse to believe it. Of course, I can! Can’t I? Move the cluster housing to Crossroads at 64,  In the now famous words of Lige Daughtridge, “We can build a grocery out there.” He is a much nicer person than I am. In the mood I’m in, I would edit his funny, logical, wonderful line to say, “We can build a damn grocery for heaven’s sake!” His reasoned line sounds nicer, BUT, I’m a  little? emotional when it comes to promoting what I believe to be the right solution. Save our neighborhoods by restoring the affordable housing we have that longs to be a useful and safe home to the singles, couples, workforce, retired, elderly and those new to the area.

The only thing that will help all of us in this moment of anger over another ‘decided upon and wrapped with a bow’ project is to celebrate together a great thing that IS happening on MAIN STREET. A gorgeous commercial architectural building has been reclaimed, history and all. I’m celebrating this investment, this new business, and the new owner, Kevin McLaughlin’s belief in the revitalization of downtown, which is the purpose of this blog. Though I can’t refrain from crossing the threshold into politics, political junkie that I am, my part in the chorus that we have talked about, is to proclaim the Good News of a coffee shop and community space in downtown Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The Coffee house is named, Larema, a word Kevin learned in Uganda which means, “my friend.”  Don’t you love it already?
Kevin says “The vision is for a safe, welcoming space for people to come together, see and be seen, hear and be heard, and enjoy delicious, hand-crafted beverages and foods. It is my belief that exposure to and appreciation of people and perspectives different than our own is essential to our growth as humans. This belief is what planted the idea in me over 10 years ago, and has caused me to seek out cafés everywhere my travels take me. I want to create a dynamic space which fosters these kinds of connections and conversations in Rocky Mount, a diverse city with a rich history – presently on the cusp of a rebirth.”


Constructed in 1910, the building housed First National Bank, prosperous furniture and undertaking businesses, and an underground pool hall speakeasy. Most recently, the building was used by Edgecombe Community College for classes prior to opening a new campus across the street.


I took these three photos when Jesse Gerstl (our investment her0 and really good guy) took me through this building. The other photos I lifted from the Larema Facebook Page. You are going to elevate off the floor when you see the interior of this building, What a place to gather. Saving this building is like winning the lottery for Rocky Mount. Here is FYI on THE VAULT: From centerpiece of the bank to the focal point of the coffee shop. The original vault’s interior space will be made available for the community to hold meetings at Larema. The vault was manufactured by Diebold Safe & Lock Co., founded in Cincinnati, Ohio (Larema owner Kevin’s birth city) in 1859. Made popular in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Diebold vaults and safes have an unparalleled reputation for protecting valuables from threats like hurricanes, fires, and bank robbers. Once used to keep the money safe, the vault will now be a safe space for conversation and collaboration.

Glass blocks lining the sidewalk are not only beautiful and one of a kind in Rocky Mount, but they also allowed light to enter the basement for liquor production during prohibition. Kevin says this is something to think on – and sit above – as we share a cup of coffee outside. Don’t you think it would be ‘way cool’ to have a prohibition party once a year with appropriate clothing and music? Our coffee will be laced with the new friendships Kevin is serving.


I assume these are Kevin’s boots ready to take the step from the past into the future. It is a preservation dream come true for all of us. This is the kind of restoration that is a positive economic driver for Rocky Mount. Welcome, Kevin hardly says enough. Thank you is a good start.





9 thoughts on “Dang and Blast To The Tarboro Housing Street Project – Something Fabulous Is Happening – The Preservation of the First National Bank – Soon to Open Larema Coffee

  1. Stepheny,

    This is one of my favorite posts from you. This is a fascinating view of the possibilities one should have to tie the history of the past to the freshness of the future.

    Dave Iery

    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Missing you and the others…delighted you liked this post. I have got to kick politics to the curb and get back to the original intent of the blog, but like a carrot before a horse, I can’t resist. But this preservation of this wonderful building is good news for everyone. Thank you, Dave, for keeping me company by reading the blog. Sending a hug in thanks.


  2. We must get some coffee and talk Main Street and Tarboro Street when Larema opens. I’m planning field trips for my classes when it does. I’m excited about welcoming them to the neighborhood.


  3. Jesse is doing so much for RM:
    Purchasing endangered properties, bringing them up to code and renting them to families who, in turn, help rebuild a neighborhood.
    Purchasing the old Carlton House and retrofitting it as a swanky boutique hotel to lure people to downtown.
    Purchasing the old City Club mansion with great plans to bring it back as a force in downtown.
    Purchasing numerous historic structures around downtown with plans to save, restore and lease to business of assorted types.
    A fantastic young man with bold vision and drive—who has made a huge financial commitment to RM.

    One must wonder why the RM City Council lacks the same bold vision, drive and financial commitment to the city they were elected to serve . . .CLEARLY, they should all step aside and allow other more dedicated and resourceful people to serve. In short, they are merely bench warmers doing LITTLE to foster growth through redevelopment and doing A LOT to foster graft, corruption and racial tension.

    It is odd and suspicious that two men on the City Council can continue their devious and corrupt practices through intimidation, negative racial fake news and bullying. The ugly truth is RM has a weak mayor and spineless council members who allow two men to force them to make bad decisions with taxpayer’s money!

    The taxpayers of RM should circulate petitions for their removal—for as long as this council is ruled by two morally corrupt and racially bankrupt individuals with their puppet City Manager there will be no change.


  4. How exciting!! I had no idea this was in the works! Thank you, Kevin, for your work in saving such a beautiful building!! Can’t wait to visit, my friend!!


  5. There is a small bank in Cape Charles, Va. Just across the Chesapeake Bay bridge tunnel and a moderate sized bank in Havre de Grace, Maryland that have been converted to restaurants. SO COOL TO eat IN A SECURE PLACE, lol! I love buildings that are repurposed….what a story they tell!


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