A Downtown Gallery That Smells Like Coffee
When you see Pete Schroth, he’ll most likely be carrying the book. It might be on the table in front of him or next to him in the car or maybe just in the other room, within a couple of easy paces. But he’ll probably be carrying it; the book is important. That’s where he keeps it all together.
The book has taken on many forms since Pete opened the Green Bean three years ago ‘— I’ve seen him lugging around an oversized and weathered white three-ring binder and, most recently, a slim black day planner with an address section in the back. It’s all the same. It’s all the book.
It’s where he keeps track of business in this place, from the minutiae like coffee deliveries to the somewhat juicier live music and event schedule, even down to the comings and goings of the original art he shows on the walls.
Pete’s joint cannot be defined with a two-word, sound-bite label. It’s a bar with beer and wine. It’s a coffeehouse/performance space. It’s a virtual office/poolroom. It’s simultaneously hipster-cool and family-oriented, underground and mainstream. It’s a place to connect and a place to be alone.
Pete and his wife Anne had a lot of dreams when they started this place, some of which blossomed into fruition and others that drifted to the margins. But from the very beginning they knew they wanted art to be a major component of their formula.
‘“I’ve got a master’s in sculpture,’” Pete says. ‘“It’s as much a part of this place as the coffee.’” He’s sitting at the long table in the Green Bean’s conference room, available by reservation to anyone who wants to use it. He looks like he came straight out of The Preppy Handbook, circa 1979, with kelly green pants and a hot pink shirt and his Patrician blond hair sweeping across his forehead just so. He hikes up his Oxford to expose the studded, rock star belt he’s worn today, giving lie to the look. Pete himself is difficult to put in a box, as well.
He’s got the book lying on the table in front of him, flipping through pages.
‘“We’ve got Trey Moore in here right now,’” he says. ‘“I was hanging out at a friend’s house and I saw one of his paintings above their couch.’” Moore’s pieces ‘— stylized, surreal landscapes done in primary colors ‘— spoke to the Schroths and they ended up on the walls of this place, which could also be called an art gallery.
‘“We shake it up every six weeks,’” Pete says of the art on the walls. ‘“People drop slides and pictures off, but most of the fun for me is hunting it down, finding the good artists and inviting them to show.’”
He cruises the internet, goes to shows, talks to artists and looks at the art around him to find talent. He also checks cutting-edge art magazines like Juxtapoz.
‘“That’s one of my main hunting grounds,’” he says.
On Sunday a new artist took over the space, Jason Whitman. The artist has shown there before, Pete says.
‘“We liked him,’” Pete says, ‘“and we gave him free reign to invite a bunch of his friends to show with him. I’m a little nervous, actually.’”
He’ll see the art for the first time as it goes up on the walls.
Six weeks later it’ll be the works of Matthew Micca, a Greensboro sculptor, gracing the room. After that it will be artist/photographer/designer John Trippe. Then a West Coast all-star show. It’s all in the book.
Pete still makes art, by the way, and his own stuff finds its way into the schedule outlined in the book. But lately he’s finding less and less time to make his creations. He and Anne have two children ‘— Otto, 3, and Angus, who is just 3 months old ‘— as well as a flourishing business with its own timetable and set of demands. And then there’s the book, which above all must be maintained and honored.
‘“I’ve got everything in here,’” Pete says, patting it reassuringly. ‘“Right now I’m trying to fit our own [third anniversary] party into the schedule.’”
To comment on this story, email Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.