Landlord of Cup A Joe discusses his new book ‘All Are Welcome’

When Leon Capetanos was approached in 1991 about putting a coffee shop in his building on Hillsborough Street, he thought coffee sounded like an OK idea, but wondered how it would make money.

Capetanos, originally from Raleigh, was living in Los Angeles at the time working in the film industry as a screenwriter.

But he had inherited property in Raleigh on Hillsborough Street, near NC State University, and wanted to lease it. A coffee shop seemed like a bad business move.

That is, until he walked into an L.A. coffee shop and smelled the coffee being roasted there.

“That’s the key,” he thought.

He soon became the landlord of Cup A Joe, leasing the building to its owners. Nearly 30 years later, it’s a staple in the area. Filled with Elvis posters, old furniture and young people, Cup A Joe seems both timeless and from another era. You can always hear music and coffee grinding, but it’s still quiet enough to read and study. Every day of the week there is a different special — from Milkshake Monday to Fusion Friday.

And it’s a place where people of different religions, nationalities and ages gather.

Capetanos decided to celebrate the diversity of the coffee shop in a new photography book called “All Are Welcome.” The portraits from the book were exhibited for one day — April 15 — at CAM Raleigh.

“This place has so many people, from different walks of life,” said Capetanos from a seat in Cup A Joe. “A lot of people go to yuppie places or millennial places, but this has everything in it, and what I wanna do is capture enough of the differences of the people.”

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