The Busy Bee Returns to Wilmington Street


March, 17, 2009, by Ladye Jane

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In a few short weeks, Wilmington Street will welcome back The Busy Bee, a lively restaurant that stood on 225 Wilmington during the early part of the 1920s.

David Meeker, Chris Powers, and David “Woody” Lockwood have been working extensively to remodel the building to historic renovation standards. In addition to honoring the past in its name, The Busy Bee will display photographs of the “Busy Bee Café Restaurant” from its heyday. The three owners have labored to ensure that elements of the old be visible throughout the establishment, perhaps most notably by preserving the beautiful exposed brick that lines the interior.

The guys were kind enough to let me come in and take some photos of the renovation in progress.

A bronze honeycomb sculpture by Raleigh-native metalsmith, Mary Catherine Floyd, welcomes you as you walk in the door.

In late April or early May of this year, The Busy Bee will open for business with a vibe and service for every time of the day, from the early morning till the late hours of the night.

Starting at 6 a.m., a coffee shop on the first floor will serve the downtown work crowd by providing Counter Culture coffee and an assortment of quick grab goodies made in house. For those not on the go, a mezzanine area in the back will provide relaxed seating and wireless Internet.

Downstairs view towards the back and mezzanine level.

At 11 a.m., a full-service lunch menu will offer a variety of sandwiches, salads, and small and large plates made of local and organic ingredients by Chef Jeremy Clayman, available until the 2 a.m. closing. Also downstairs, an assortment of eight microbrew drafts will, according to Chris Powers, “showcase both brewing technique and quality ingredients.”

One flight up from the morning coffee drinkers and lunching professionals, “The Hive,” the Bee’s nighttime identity, will create a whole other atmosphere, featuring live music, DJs, and six specialty batch artisan brews. But perhaps most exciting is The Hive’s rooftop bar (downtown proper’s first, excluding Solas on Glenwood South), available for both daytime and nighttime seating.

UPDATE: The interior of the Busy Bee will be non-smoking. Smoking will be allowed on the outside roof deck, and on the Wilmington St. patio.

A hardware store in 1905, an auto store in the 1930s, and even an appliance store in the 50s and 60s, 225 Wilmington has been through a lot of changes. But looking back, The Busy Bee appears to have been the location’s glory days, and now, in 2009, all signs point to a very successful reincarnation.

How nice of the former Busy Bee to have “Ladies Invited”

The interior of the old Busy Bee before it underwent a renovation.

The interior of the old Busy Bee after the renovation.

The Busy Bee’s other life as Advance Auto

Historic images courtesy of North Carolina State Archives
Recent images by Ladye Jane Vickers

Read More

Restaurants, Other posts by Ladye Jane.


Busy Bee CafeDavid Meeker


  • highjoeltage
    03/17 06:24 PM

    The woodwork looks amazing, keep it up

  • Bruce
    03/17 06:27 PM

    Very nice pictures. I look forward to the opening!

  • christopher b.
    03/17 06:30 PM

    oh shit. looking forward to this.

  • Maite
    03/17 07:01 PM

    Can’t wait!  :)

  • T-Plain
    03/17 07:15 PM

    This looks awesome!

  • Varani
    03/17 07:33 PM

    Ooooh! Good job guys. This place looks really great. Can’t wait for the opening!

  • TheWaveLife
    03/17 08:31 PM

    Holy Hell Batman! It’s gorgeous… Congrats Gents.

  • VaNC
    03/17 08:35 PM

    Are they going to have seating outside upstairs?

  • Ann
    03/17 11:02 PM

    Definitely a place I want to check out! Love the walls, floors, and beehive sculpture.

  • Smitty
    03/17 11:37 PM

    Fantastic looks, and the hours/offerings show a sensativity to the downtown “vibe”, as you said. Hopefully, they’ll respect the 70% of folks on this blog that prefer a non-smoking environment. Currently, The Remedy Grille (which is great, but tiny, IMHO) is the only place to go late at night for a brew and some chat where you don’t go home smelling like you’ve been in a dive playing poker all night. Thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes snaps.

  • L
    03/17 11:44 PM

    The word on the street is that Foundation is smoke free too… though I haven’t personally been to check it out (yet).  There’s 2 for ya Smitty

  • Joshua
    03/18 12:40 AM

    stunning. can’t wait for that outdoor seating. no smoking would be great too!

  • ChiefJoJo
    03/18 12:54 AM

    Awesome!  I will be a customer for sure!

  • kg
    03/18 07:37 AM

    i’ll definitely ‘bee’ there.  (sigh)

  • Clay
    03/18 08:37 AM

    I will definitely have to check this place out. It is good to see another outdoor space downtown, especially a rooftop one.

    (I will check it out regardless of the smoking policy, whatever the owners decide not the state)

  • scoop
    03/18 09:44 AM

    I guess they named it this because “Second Empire” was already taken.

  • CD2
    03/18 10:09 AM

    Good job David it looks great.

  • christopher b.
    03/18 10:25 AM

    Re: Smitty, 03/17 09:37 PM

    For smoke-free, Mosaic is a good choice too

  • John
    03/18 10:30 AM

    Looks great. Smoke-free will top it off. I know the following are also smoke-free:
    Boylan Bridge
    Tobacco Road Cafe
    Raleigh Times (main bar and dining room)
    Hibernian (side bar only)
    The Remedy
    Lincoln Theater (lower level)
    The Pour House (lower level)

    Keep ‘em coming!

  • Carver
    03/18 10:32 AM

    I am now that much more Thirsty and Hungry! Looking forward to a new option to socialize and drink!  :)

  • olebill
    03/18 10:37 AM

    Awesome. This isn’t a bust on the author’s rooftop photo above but it doesn’t give the killer view justice. The view is capped to the left by the Progress Energy building, the Wachovia building on the right (as seen in the pic) and the RBC tower right in the middle giving the feeling of being on top of a taller building in a larger city as opposed to the current G South buildings which look out or down instead of to the cityscape above. The honey-comb artwork is a great touch.

  • Tired of Hearing about Smoking...
    03/18 10:56 AM

    I think whenever a new bar opens in Raleigh I am going to make my determination on whether or not to go there solely on whether you can smoke or not, because I personally have to bring up the smoking point in every post I make about bars on here because I need everyone to know my feelings on the subject. Smoking is wrong and unless you want to come home smelling like you were in a dive, playing poker and getting sodomized by Lucifer himself, you shouldn’t smoke because more than 70% of the readers of think you should be put to death for wanting to smoke in a bar.

    place looks great, can’t wait to try it out, regardless of whether it is smoking or not.

  • sarah
    03/18 10:58 AM

    Great job David (..and Taylor)! It is awesome. I can’t wait for it to open.

  • kristine
    03/18 11:29 AM

    oooh. Looks great. I can only hope we ladies will be invited!

  • packpigskinfan25
    03/18 11:30 AM

    Tired of Hearing about Smoking…



    Yes all… lets condemn a place or make it the next best thing just based on a preference that probably hasnt even been made yet!! It should be the owners decision regardless of what you yuppies think. Whatever works best for them and the clientele they anticipate having. I would say since it looks to be a coffee shop in the AM, NON smoking would seem to be the most likely bet. Why dont you people just wait till its announced as smoking or non before you start bitching about something.

  • packpigskinfan25
    03/18 11:36 AM

    I dont know Kristine, I hear along with their ‘No Smoking’ policy… they are trying to enforce a ‘No Ladies’ policy!

    You know… they like to discriminate as much as possible!


    ps- please no one take that too seriously- my last post sure… but this one was all tongue-in-cheek

  • The Mixtape Monster
    03/18 11:37 AM

    This place is going to be “the place to be” in Raleigh very shortly. The buzz on the streets is huge.

  • packpigskinfan25
    03/18 11:52 AM

    Looking at that list provided by John- I believe that the last 4 major places to open up in Raleigh have been non-smoking….

    Tobacco Rd.


  • spookyjon
    03/18 12:26 PM

    Looks really cool!  I’ll def. be there opening week.

  • RaleighRob
    03/18 01:08 PM

    I’m excited about this one!

    Would be hilarious if they brought back the “Ladies Invited” sign!  :-)

  • friedrice105
    03/18 01:16 PM

    can’t wait to try out the busy bee.  while i tend to frequent the Hill, i definitely will make it out to raleigh to try it out.

  • Jen101
    03/18 02:30 PM

    101 Lounge + Cafe on the corner of Davie + Blount is also non-smoking and open 7am to midnight.

    Busy Bee looks to be nice addition to area!

  • John
    03/18 03:25 PM

    This is an example of why non-smoking establishments are important to me:

  • DPK
    03/18 03:28 PM

    Awesome and it’s non-smoking.  :)

    Can’t wait.

  • miamiblue
    03/18 03:52 PM

    Looks to be another great addition to downtown. The woodwork does look wonderful, and I love the honeycomb sculpture! I can’t wait to give it a try.

    Interestingly, this morning I saw a real estate listing on craigslist for 211-213 S. Wilmington. It would be nice to see the upper levels of those spaces uncovered.

  • Joe at Slim's
    03/18 04:22 PM

    David, Chris and Woody -

    I am so proud of you guys. Won’t you be our neighbor?

    David - thanks so much for the tour yesterday. Erica and I think it looks beautiful.

    Good luck with everything, guys -

    Joe Yerry
    Slim’s Downtown

  • dt
    03/18 05:19 PM

    just leave the rest of us the Jackpot, Slims and the Smoking Times, as long as we smokers have somewhere to go there isn’t a problem.  The owner of an establishment should have the choice whether to be smoke free or not, as long as there is choice, i’m ok.

  • barleysue
    03/18 06:00 PM

    Good job Chris! We are looking forward to seeing it in person.

  • Ladye Jane
    03/18 07:14 PM

    Let’s keep the smoking vs. non-smoking talk over in the smokey article. This is about the Bee.

  • B
    03/18 10:02 PM

    I haven’t even made it to the Foundation or BB Brewpub yet.

  • JRD
    03/19 01:51 AM

    Love the non smoking.  Why is it being called a renovation?  It looks nothing like the old restuarant.

  • cabbeygo
    03/19 10:47 AM

    That’s f’n exciting…you guys have covered your bases! Coffeshop, restaurant, djs and music, a rooftop AND food until 2? Bravo, fellas. We’re going to be good friends. Now, the question is, with all of the people amped to get in, what’s your capacity?

  • mgd
    03/19 02:57 PM

    Sorry for getting in a spitting match but:

    Look at section 3.A.II

  • mgd
    03/19 02:58 PM

    Ah poop how did that get there

  • mgd
    03/19 03:04 PM

    That was suppose to go here

    but I cant post it there now…

  • Daniel
    03/19 05:47 PM

    my vote is no on smoking…and YES on smoke machines!

    these pics look amazing. it would be so nice if they could keep some of the old typography when they develop the identity. anyone know who is doing the identity work?

  • wg
    03/20 09:59 AM

    anyone know who or how to contact them about jobs there??

  • Doreen Smith Irmen
    03/20 03:42 PM


    Congratulations to you and the guys! Mom just told me aboout this venture of yours. I wish you all the luck in the world!! May it be a great success!!

    Aunt Doreen

  • RaleighRob
    03/23 11:41 AM

    JRD- I think you’re confusing “renovation” with “restoration”.

  • blzbub
    03/25 01:25 AM

    I hope they allow cigar smoking!

  • Joe Seale
    03/25 10:08 AM

    Big-time buzz building about this place. Should be sweet. (double sigh).

  • roi
    03/29 11:13 AM

    For those who have mentioned some non-smoking bars, don’t forget that Mitch’s Tavern on Hillsborough St. has been non-smoking for about two years….probably one of the first to do so.

  • mary
    03/31 09:22 PM

    with chris and woody as a team-no doubt it will be a success!!!
    good luck guys

  • Michelle Serra
    04/01 11:09 PM

    I am so happy for you guys! The place looks AWESOME!  Good luck~ Hope to come visit soon! :-)

  • drsulliv
    04/02 11:30 AM

    any updated word on when they may be opening the doors?

  • juliawesome
    04/03 12:57 AM

    Open 6am for coffee and pastries April 6! Grub starts at 11am until 2am. Cannot wait!

  • s
    04/03 09:01 AM

    Great guys opening this place.  I heard the soft opening is this weekend.  I wish them the best of luck.  Powers is super-knowledgeable with the beer.

    Great to see these beautiful structures restored while keeping their integrity.  Less high-rise condos and more renovations of current beautiful space, - please.  THAT is what will help distinguish Raleigh.

    FWIW, I’ve been to Foundation three times this week and it is simply spot-on.  They are demonstrating the whole Pegu Club, Death & Co., Violet Hour vibe with the addition of some handcrafted NC brews. 

    It makes me proud to live in Raleigh when we are embracing such interesting concepts. 

    Continue to put your money where your mouth is, people.  Lot’s of amateur critics, huh???  It was interesting for me to see people lament the demise of Vin while saying in the same sentence that they hadn’t been there in a year.  Remember the profit margin of a restaurant runs at around 15-18%.  In other word, it is by no means a get-rich-quick kinda biz.

    NOW, more ethic food!!! With all due respect to Pho Cali, Dos Taquitos, Neomonde, etc…

  • mgd
    04/03 09:10 AM

    S- if you like Thai try this place… its pretty much across Capital from Pho Cali

    If you like Chinese… actually their menu is so big they also have Thai and Malaysia items.  Look at the back for the menu for the traditional menu its not on their website.

  • s
    04/03 09:34 AM


    thanks for the tip.  sorry to run of course from the Busy Bee!

  • Claudia-n-Juancho
    04/04 04:25 PM


  • Theresa Coleman
    04/05 12:44 PM

    Hi Chris,
    Congratulations on the new restaurant. It looks great. Good luck to you and the guys. Your proud mother told me about the good news.

  • bebe
    04/06 08:14 PM

    anyone know their url? google is coming up dry.

  • slim piggins
    04/08 06:03 PM

    cool idea but i wish it wasn’t just like the bar that’s right around the corner…does raleigh really need that much belgian beer? why can’t the czech get any love?

  • tc
    04/08 06:38 PM

    “does raleigh really need that much belgian beer? why can’t the czech get any love?”

    I welcome it.  Belgian beer is the best in the world (yes, opinion I know, but a popular one for a reason).  That’s why you see so much of it at Raleigh Times and now at the Busy Bee.  It’s not that they specialize in belgian beer, as much as quality beer. 

    Honestly, I was impressed with their draft selection. 

    Also, it was pretty hilarious that they served Miller High Life in a champagne glass.

  • Jeff
    04/11 06:54 PM

    great choice for a chef. I know his work well and can’t wait to try his great food.

  • Er2
    04/14 01:29 PM

    yummo. no smoking though please - many other states already have mandates on no smoking, so we would not be that different to have it here.

    And to the person who was chastising people that did not want any smoking there, try having asthma and not being able to eat in a place because some jerk is smoking. Or, better yet, if you’ve had lung cancer from secondhand smoke and don’t want it to RECUR.


  • Er2
    04/14 01:34 PM

    By the way, I posted that because my wife had lung cancer from exposure to secondhand smoke and does NOT want it to recur.

    People should never have to choose between their health and eating out. I have a 22 year old niece with asthma who shouldn’t have to limit where she goes because some smoking jerk wants to make it hard for her to breathe.

    Try going through cancer treatment like my wife did, before you condemn people who want an environment they can breathe in.

  • Micah
    04/14 02:33 PM

    There are quite a few ridiculous statements in Er2’s comments that deserve an equally ridiculous response, but I digress.  Besides, un-wad your panties, it was decided that the Busy Bee would be non-smoking a while before it opened.

  • Er2
    04/14 03:23 PM

    Micah, the only ridiculous person here is you. There is hardly anything ridiculous about my wife’s or my niece’s health.

  • Anna
    04/14 03:27 PM

    I agree Micah, that comment was WAY out of line.I too am anticipating the opening of the redesigned Busy Bee, and it would be nice if instead of attacking other people’s health problems, we as a community discussed things as adults.

  • mgd
    04/14 03:30 PM

    I dont see anything ridiculous with what he said considering his situation and its questionably posted in the wrong article topic.

    He is more passionate on the against side while others are on the for side.  If anyone has ever known someone with emphysema you know what smoking does.  You literally walk 10 ft and have to sit down for 5-10 minutes with O2 to catch your breath thats if you are lucky enough to live that long through its progression.

    What is ridiculous is your last sentence it has no relavence to either of his last 2 posts.  I didnt get that he was questioning the time line of their non-smoking policy.

  • Micah
    04/14 05:31 PM

    -The Busy Bee is open for nearly two weeks.
    -It is non-smoking.
    -I was in no way attacking anyones health problems, wives, or nieces…And that assumuption makes me even more interested in how peoples emotions fit together with reading comprehension.
    -Just because, I will point out the most glaring statement that I think is ridiculous; “By the way, I posted that because my wife had lung cancer from exposure to secondhand smoke.”  How did you come to that conclusion?  I am not making light of your wife’s situation, or saying that it is any less life-altering, but just how did her oncologists decide that it was second-hand smoke that caused her illness?  I have had skin cancer, yet hardly ever spend much time in the sun.  My beloved mother died at 50 from lung cancer and never smoked and was hardly ever around it (she was a vehement anti-smoking personality). 
    -Oh, and mgd, my relevant quote is the first sentence from the first post; “yummo. no smoking though please…”

  • Anna
    04/14 07:52 PM

    I am saying Micah’s comment was way out of line. He has no clue what the heck he is talking about.

    And yes, a person stating they don’t want to be in thre because of their family member’s health problems if smoke is also present is very relevant.

  • Edwin
    04/14 07:55 PM

    I agree with the guy who’s wife had lung cancer. I am happy that the Bee has opened, but hope that they and other places around Raleigh will take people’s health problems seriously.

    Nothing wrong with saying that.

  • Tim
    04/15 07:39 AM

    Micah sounds like a rude jerk. Ignore him.

  • Tim
    04/15 07:41 AM

    By the way, when will the Bee have a website or hours posted?

  • Molly
    04/16 09:58 AM

    I have to LAUGH when I see Micah criticizing others about “reading comprehension” or comprehension of any type as he starts a sentence with “Just because….”

    LOL! Perhaps an English class is in order.

    Judge not others lest ye make a mistake too, eh Micah?

  • smitty
    04/16 03:18 PM

    They seemed to be charging a $5 cover for the upstairs area last Saturday.  Was there a band or something?  I went elsewhere.

  • wrt
    06/04 08:08 PM

    no smoking, yah!

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  • spookyjon
    08/13 08:06 PM

    Oh good, the son of the deposed king of Nigeria is on New Raleigh!

  • Martin
    10/31 04:31 AM

    If you enjoy a drink, DO NOT go to Busy Bee. They serve drinks until 2:00 am and then kick you out at 2:07 am before you are finished with the drink you just paid for 7 minutes before. My friend and I like to sip on our drinks so at 2:11am, the bouncers were carrying us down the stairs. I couldn’t believe what went on. I’m 28 and have NEVER had such a problem anywhere.

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