An immovable, 12-inch-thick silver metal door propped open against a wall catches the eyes of visitors to the new bar and coffee shop in Bethlehem.
The aptly-named business, The Vault, on the corner of N.C. 127 and Rink Dam Road used to be a bank. When owners Chris London, Mark Wagner and Bryan Pallone decided to turn it into a bar, they wanted to keep the vault and even allow visitors inside, Pallone said.
“We just ran with it,” Pallone said. “We wanted to keep as much of the bank as we could. ... How many people have ever walked in a vault?”
London and Wagner, owners of The Coffee Lodge in Statesville, were approached last year by Alexander County officials about opening a second coffee shop location in the former bank building, London said. When they saw the building, they felt a coffee shop and bar would fit perfectly in the space. The pair got Pallone — a longtime friend and American Football Association Hall of Fame inductee from Greensboro — involved in the project and work started late last year.
They plan to serve coffee and pastries in the morning and food and drinks in the afternoon and night.
The bar was set to open in March until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, London said.
“COVID-19 hasn’t made it easy,” he said. “But we decided to just roll with the punches.”
The trio used the time to make the bar perfect for its opening this Saturday.
The inside is covered with reclaimed wood from an 1860s barn in Taylorsville as well as flooring from a nearby furniture store being taken apart, London said. They want to give the place a welcoming, lodge-like look.
The walls are covered in beer signs and photos of the three owners. Pipes used for table legs and purse hooks give the business an industrial feel, while large windows bring in welcome natural light.
Out front, the owners added a concrete patio. They hope it adds an inviting feeling, Pallone said.
“Any time you pass by and see people on a patio you think, ‘I want to be there,’” he said.
London, a former 80s rock band drummer and a Garner, North Carolina, native said he wanted to build a business in a community-minded area like his hometown.
“I wanted to get back to my roots,” he said.
The owners are putting the finishing touches on this week while employees train and they spread the word.
Even before the renovation began, they saw plenty of excitement from the community, Wagner said.
“I’ve never seen this kind of reaction — this community has been welcoming us with open arms,” Wagner said.
While they’ve heard from some people who are apprehensive to have a bar in the Bethlehem area, Wagner hopes they’ll still give them a chance. They want to be involved in the community and bring a positive place for families to enjoy, he said.
“If they give us a chance we’ll show them that we’re not a typical bar,” he said. “The quality of customer service they’ll get will bring them back.”
Wagner, a DJ from Clearwater Beach, Florida, who is involved in about a dozen restaurants around the country, said of all of his projects, he’s most excited about this one.
“Just because of the feedback we’re getting on social media,” Wagner said.
The restaurant will serve coffee from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a special “The Vault” blend of Black Powder Coffee out of Mooresville. Beginning at 11 a.m. it will serve lunch and beer, wine and liquor until 2 a.m. The menu will include sandwiches, wings, appetizers and more.
Though it shares a name with The Vault Bar and Lounge in downtown Hickory, which closed in April 2018, the two businesses are unrelated, London said.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.