How a Coffee Shop Works

The 2nd Act aims to cultivate community

“It’s a new beginning for everyone involved,” say Michael Willey (right, with Christa Willey and Chris Nevel).
Photo by Rachel Pressley

In his much-lauded book How Music Works, David Byrne has a chapter called “How to Build a Scene.” It’s largely a formula to cultivate a thriving music and arts scene, but it can be pertinent to strengthening just about any city’s community. Byrne suggests a venue that is free to enter, preferably one with affordable food and drink. Something open all day, so that it isn’t just a venue to see music or art, but also a place to relax with friends, meet new people, take a date, or maybe even get some work done. A place built for locals, but also welcoming to the out-of-towner. 

And while that may sound manageable enough to develop, it’s hard to find a place that fits the bill in most cities and towns. 

Seating inside the space.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

“The other day I looked around the floor, and just noted the variety,” says Chris Nevel. You can usually find Chris behind the bar at 2nd Act, the new coffee house, cafe, and wine bar opened last fall. “There was a circle of musicians playing music, we had a mom and daughter having a wine date on the sofa nook, we had a teenage group doing a Bible study, we had two couples on a double date, we had someone remote working on a laptop drinking a latte, and I thought, ‘This is a real community in here, making it their own.’”

When Chris, along with Michael and Christa Willey, decided to open 2nd Act in September, the name came easy. “It’s a second act for everybody [involved],” says Michael. “It’s a chance for us, in the second phase of our life, to have a new beginning. I think it means something different for each person.”

Beers on tap at 2nd Act.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Michael owns a recruiting firm that staffs middle- and upper-management positions for national construction firms throughout the country, while his wife Christa runs her own local property-management company. Chris had helped open West First and Southern Appalachian Brewery, along with stints at Shine and Wicked Weed. “I’ve opened places for other people, but have never had anything of my own,” he points out. They’d all dreamt of a place like 2nd Act, and their offices just happened to be in the upstairs of an old 1926 Ford dealership, with a spacious yet neglected showroom floor. 

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

“It was all boarded up before,” says Michael. “But I kept walking in and seeing this Art Deco, industrial vibe to it, and so I invited everybody to come in and look at the space, and when they did, they saw what I saw. The very front of the ground floor has this amazing terrazzo tile that you can’t even make today. It’s just gorgeous.”

The 2nd Act is a spacious venue specializing in coffee and a great wine and beer list. Dining options include breakfast fare, sandwiches, and charcuterie.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

The coffee and espresso starts brewing at 7am, along with the pastries for the early risers. There are sandwiches and wraps for the lunch crowd, plus charcuterie, craft beer, and a wide variety of wine that pairs nicely with the rotating cast of local musicians featured most evenings. The venue also hosts local food trucks to give guests a variety of dining options throughout the week, and organizes seasonal wine dinners highlighting their favorite regional wineries. 

Photo by Rimas Zailskas

“When most people see a space this big, the initial thought is to see how many tables you can squeeze in there to open up a big restaurant. That wasn’t what we wanted to do — we wanted to open up a community space, and I think we’ve succeeded with that thus far,” says Michael. “Instead of having a place that’s full of cafe tables and barstools, we have a welcoming environment that has couches, high tops, a bar area, and space for people to walk around. It’s a way to make 2,400 feet feel cozy, and welcoming, and warm.” 

They also offer live music.
Photo courtesy of 2nd Act

“To have the three of us come together and do this was meant to be,” Michael explains. “To build a space that is truly for all in this community is meant to be. To have a space for people to feel welcome no matter what race, creed, color, religion, background, or orientation they are, where they can drop their baggage at the front door and and become part of a community in here — that was meant to be.”

Wine and champagne at the bar.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

The 2nd Act — Coffee, Wine and Craft Beer Bar, 101 East Allen St., Suite 101, Hendersonville. Hours are Monday 7:30am-3:30pm & Tuesday 7:3oam-7pm; Wednesday-Friday 7:30am-10pm; Saturday 8am-10pm.

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