Lucky Tree, a local cafe that combines delicious baked goods and coffee with the sale of locally-made art and gifts, has graced Hillsborough Street for about a decade. Located about a 15-minute walk away from Wolf Village and right across the street from Meredith College, many students are familiar with the popular coffeehouse.
Known for its specialty lattes and “Free the Mic,” a bimonthly open mic night, Lucky Tree’s creation stemmed from the childhood dream of the owners of the cafe, Ashley Faries and her twin sister Amanda.
“The short end of it is we actually started with the retail version, with doing local art about 10 years ago,” said Ashley Faries. “And then, for a couple years, we were able to expand into offering baked goods and coffee. That was seeing the full picture kind of come together.”
A wide range of local artists and creators sell their art at Lucky Tree. According to Faries, working with local craftspeople in the area and putting faces to artwork is a rewarding experience.
While Faries is spearheading the day-t0-day operations of Lucky Tree, her sister has been putting her efforts into a new sustainability project, one that involves growing some of the teas, spices and other resources that the cafe uses on a regular basis.
“We don’t have big machinery or a huge budget, but we had some access to property and started putting seeds in the ground, quite literally,” Faries said. “We’d love to be able to grow, hopefully, exclusively by next year.”
Although choosing the Hillsborough Street storefront came more as a neat coincidence rather than a conscious decision, Faries expressed her love for Lucky Tree’s location within the community.
“The space kind of found us, and then we loved it,” Faries said. “And then, honestly, it’s just been furthering whatever expectations we had. It’s just been that much better. Getting to know the neighborhood — it’s not just college students.”
Like many other small, local businesses, the pandemic certainly threw a wrench in Lucky Tree’s plans.
“We don’t have this huge financial backing, and we just found our business in a space where it felt within its walls, it felt like it was sustainable,” Faries said. “It felt like we’re making it, we’re doing it, and then to have that kind of hit happen — it takes the wind out of you.”
Luckily, the coffee shop seems to have bounced back handedly with the return of “Free the Mic,” a bimonthly open mic event that occurs on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. Local musicians and artists are encouraged to sign up to connect, collaborate and ultimately perform for the community.
“A lot of times, people will stick around and collaborate together,” Faries said. “It’s a pretty magical experience, we love it. We still get a high off of it, and we do it twice a month.”
Some of the most popular menu items at Lucky Tree include its specialty lattes, such as the vanilla maple latte and the hippie latte. The breakfast biscuit bites are also a treat for those craving a more savory snack. Faries’ favorites include the honeysuckle latte, a sweet matcha latte with oat milk, and the tomato basil bites.
As local businesses across the country start to return operations to normal, Lucky Tree is no exception. All are encouraged to visit to enjoy a coffee, take in some local art and enjoy live music on “Free the Mic” nights.
“In fact, we were able to have live music … on a Saturday in the middle of the day, which is awesome, something we did pre-COVID,” Faries said. “It kind of felt a little bit like we were getting back to a really fun space.”