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In the 2nd Act downtown, 'Starbucks meets the pub'

The spacious 2nd Act is open at 100 East Allen. The spacious 2nd Act is open at 100 East Allen.

Two women walk into a bar and start talking about the office. No, wait. That’s not right. The story told by Mike Willey, about his wife, Christa, and her friend, Terry Jacobs, opens this way: Two women walk into an office and start talking about a bar.

“Chris told me she was going to be meeting with Terrye and next thing I know Christa walks in my office and Terrye walks in right behind her and they sat down and Christa said, ‘We’re going to go into the coffee business with Terrye,’ and I said, ‘No we’re not.’”
“And she said, ‘Well, hear us out.’ So I was completely against it — the last thing I wanted to do was get into hospitality. We were looking at a different space, a smaller space. It would be a good hobby business. Then it turned out to be this — we went from a hobby business to a ‘go big or go home’ business I guess.”
“This” is The 2nd Act Coffee, Wine and Craft Beer Bar, which opened Wednesday in an impressively renovated  space in the 100 East Allen building, itself rebirthed and reimagined by developer Andrew Riddle and Allen Street Partners.

“We’re more of a Starbucks meets the pub,” says Willey (pronounced Wiley), who runs a construction recruiting business. He carries out the day job upstairs in the same building as The 2nd Act, which occupies part of the ground floor of the renovated Wetmur building now known as 100 East Allen.

2ndActBarThe 2nd Act serves coffee, beer and wineOpened 94 years ago as Joines Ford Motor Co., the building has been home to Robotyper, an electric typewriter maker, the Board of Education and the Henderson County Planning Board.
The Willeys and Jacobs brought on Chris Nevel to execute the shared vision of the team and orchestrate the design, upfit, lighting and decoration of the 2,500-square-foot space with high ceilings and brick walls.
“When we came in, all we had was that back wall with an unfinished piece of drywall,” Willey says of the blank canvas they confronted. “We spent 3½ months clearing off these floors. We stained and finished this floor. We built the bar, built the room.
“The building was built in 1926 so we really wanted to go with that industrial soft feel,” he continues. “It really takes on dual personalities. During the day, with all this natural light that we have coming in, it’s really full. At night, though, when it’s dark out and when these warm amber Edison bulbs heat up this place it looks like a speak-easy. It’s real mellow. It takes on a completely different personality.”
The morning is driven by Jacobs’ specialties. In her last act, Jacobs was owner of Jongo Java, the popular coffee, smoothie, pastry and sandwich shop on South Main that closed in July 2018.
The 2nd Act offers pastries from local bakeries, desserts, chocolate and sweets, breakfast fare such as bagels and bacon, egg and cheese croissants. Lunch items are also Jacobs specialties from her Jongo Java days — Cuban sandwiches, turkey, ham and cheese, a BLT, salads. “We’re not serving any main entrees,” Willey says. “We didn’t want to go into a full restaurant.”
Chris Nevel created a 15-minute video tracing the history of the 1926 Wetmur Building through the latest renovation.Chris Nevel created a 15-minute video tracing the history of the 1926 Wetmur Building through the latest renovation.



In the evening, the pub offers charcuterie plates and a few other lighter items. And on Friday and Saturday nights they’ll host a food truck in the parking lot. So far, Willey has signed up Olive catering and he expects to bring in Carolina Ace BBQ, which serves smoked ribs and brisket.
On the beverage menu are an unusually large selection of sparkling wines, more than 30 red and white wines, 11 craft beers on tap, plus other beer, hard cider and spritzers in cans and bottles. They offer a full menu of mocktails and four non-alcoholic beers so patrons who choose not to drink alcohol can “feel like you’re involved in the party but not involved in the party.”


Struggling to its feet during the first days of the pandemic, The Second Act has overcome the odds. The varied, complementary talents of the four partners have produced a finished product that seems to be working in harmony. 
“We originally thought I was just going to do some fill-in work as a barista when Christa and Terrye sent me a Facebook message,” Nevel says. Back in January, the three of them met for breakfast at Mike’s on Main.
The large space at 100 East Allen “was nothing but a dusty unfinished brick shell with damaged floors,” Nevel says. “In late May I declined, thinking it was terrible time and we were undercapitalized. But Michael is so good with figures and forecasting that I left that two-hour meeting signed up, first employee and a primary investor.”
He finished the upfit, chose the lighting, the 75-inch wide-screen TV, photos and other art work. A talented videographer, Nevel made a 15-minute video featuring black-and-white photographs of the Wetmur building from its beginning as a Ford dealership all the way to short video clips of the renovation work.
“He came in because we wanted to go big,” Willey says. “All four of us — we’ve never had a speed bump, we’ve never had a roadblock. Though we all come from different parts of business, we have been able to finish each other’s sentences. I’ll say, ‘There’s something I was thinking’ and Chris would say, ‘I was actually going to bring that up.’ We’ve all been on the same wave length.”

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The 2nd Act Coffee, Wine and Craft Beer Bar, at 101 East Allen, is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. ("10ish") Thursday- Saturday. Visit the site on Facebook or call 828-513-0045.