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bites of bull city



Come Together





REMEMBER FIRST HEARING ABOUT Kaffeinate’s upcoming opening in summer 2017. I immediately established contact with the Lee family to learn more about what they had in mind. “We are looking to create an atmosphere of community and belonging,” Diana Lee shared in Bites of Bull City’s pre-opening blog post. “Coffee shops are unique spaces in that they are ideal for creating connections and exchanging ideas. We’re hoping to cultivate that, and we want Kaffeinate to become a home away from home – a cozy-yet-vibrant destination. In our cafe, you truly are part of our family, and we celebrate you by using the best ingredients, constantly seeking superior techniques and elevating coffee with innovative, transforming ideas.” That goal was certainly realized as Kaffeinate became a special home away from home for so many, including students and staff from Durham School of the Arts (DSA). It was a morning respite for West Village tenants, a place of contemplation and study for Duke students, a leisurely meeting spot or a quick stop before work for downtown employees. We take our day-to-day habits for granted, which is why the gas explosion on April 10 that demolished the cafe and took the life of its owner, Kong Lee, was so devastating. Everyone in Durham felt it – much like the tremble in the ground that morning, we were shaken.




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Immediately after, the Durham community began to do what it does best: show support and find ways to help one another. It is the cycle of giving in action – a community establishment serves the people, and the people serve back in times of need. Maverick’s Smokehouse and Taproom started grilling up free food for first responders that day. Local businesses and restaurants, like It’s a Southern Thing, COPA and The Rickhouse, began to recruit and organize chefs and local talent, planning fundraisers and auctions to raise money for victims. Businesses like Sam’s Bottle Shop and ZenFish donated a portion of their sales to the cause. Several GoFundMe pages were created in support of the Lee family and others who were injured or out of work, including the Durham Restaurant Workers Fund created by Daniel Sartain of Bar Virgile. Rebekah Miel, who owns a design studio downtown, knew she had to do something to help as soon as she felt the explosion. She started the Bull City Rebuilds GoFundMe hours after the news broke. “I knew there would be unmet needs even after insurance and all of the other safety nets. I also knew that as a community, Durham would be looking for ways to help. I wanted to make that a little easier if I could.” Jethro Libutan, a DSA student, immediately created a GoFundMe page for the Lee family. “Kaffeinate meant a lot to the DSA community,” he says, “… it was more than just a place to grab coffee and enjoy delicious waffles, pastries and other wonderful foods – Kaffeinate was a place of fellowship, a popular place to hang out … it was also a place where we could catch up on homework, have important discussions, meet new people and study for an upcoming test or quiz. I personally feel that Kaffeinate will have a special place in all our hearts because of the memories we formed and associated with it.” There is no denying that Mr. Lee, father to Diana and Raymond Lee (who also helped run the shop with him), was a father figure to many in the community, including those DSA students and regulars at the shop. After the explosion, several people shared their kind interactions with Mr. Lee.

Profile for Shannon Media

Durham Magazine June/July 2019  

Durham Magazine June/July 2019