College Hill to lose its Perk
“It’s been a joy and satisfaction operating this business.”
That’s all Karen Archia wanted to say about the upcoming closing of the People’s Perk, the Greensboro coffee shop she and Nancy Lenk opened in September of 2013, and which Archia became the sole proprietor of when Lenk retired at the end of 2016.
In my three decades of living in College Hill, at least a dozen businesses have occupied the Perk’s building at 551 S. Mendenhall, but I’ve never seen any make that space as bright and hospitable as Archia has. The neighborhood will feel smaller after Aug. 14, the Perk’s last regular business day.
On July 31, in the last “Noon Tunes” performance at the Perk, Lauren Cunningham sang a beautiful a cappella cover of Stevie Wonder’s “A Place in the Sun,” and the feeling of love in the packed room was palpable.
Cunningham, who has been singing there for the last year, called the closing a tremendous loss to the community.
“I consider the Perk my sanctuary, a healing space that builds community and fosters connection. It’s an authentically inclusive place for all people, where creativity and ideas live, where black art and artists are valued. We will mourn the loss of such a special place. However, I celebrate all of the amazing relationships I have developed at the Perk, and relationships last forever.”
Archia told me that everything she wishes to say publicly is contained in printed message she’s been handing out to her customers, in which she wrote “I’ve made the decision to close the business because of several factors that make my venture here unsustainable, and while it did not come easily, I think this is the right decision and I feel at peace with it.”
She said that she does not have plans to open in another physical location. But that she feels “honored and privileged to have met all the wonderful people” who have supported her business. “You all have given me so much, and I plan to stay connected to you and stay in Greensboro.”
Although Aug. 14 will be the Perk’s last regular full-service business day, Archia invited the public to drop by for “visits, hugs, help and conversation” between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturdays until Aug. 29. She’ll be selling whole bean coffee and People’s Perk T-shirts in the store through Aug. 28.
On Aug. 10 from 3 to 6 p.m., she is hosting a “paint and pizza” gathering to paint over of the shop’s “Wonderful Women and Fabulous Femmes” mural, which was done by Terri Jones and Gloria Williams of the Greensboro Mural Project in July of 2017. The mural depicts Bree Newsome (who climbed a 30-foot pole to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capital grounds), Miss Major Griffin-Gracey (a transgender woman and activist who took part in the Stonewall demonstration), Jessie Barber (who became an activist against police brutality after her son was killed by a Guilford County sheriff’s deputy in 2001) and Micky Bradford (the transgender woman who protested H.B. 2 by voguing in front of then-Governor Pat McCrory’s mansion).
Postcards and high-quality 11-inch by 17-inch prints of the mural will be available for purchase and pick up at the People’s Perk until Aug. 28, and afterward, via the website. The prints are $20 each; the postcards are $2.75 or two for $4.