It is said that a mother’s love is the foundation of her children. For Rodney Byerly, the love, life and legacy of his mother go beyond.
It’s as noticeable as the color red throughout its business, you can hear it in the music blaring from the speakers, and smell it from the aroma of the coffee seeping in.
But that’s what Byerly’s Carolina Red Café is, located in the former Westchester Mall of High Point at 1701 Westchester Dr. Suite 250.
“I started this business in honor of my mother, Carol. She died in 2015, ”he said. “Her favorite color was red and she loved coffee and tea. She always had a coffee in her hand. I remember being in the car with her when I was a child and she had drunk an open cup of coffee and never spilled. I was able to put his name in the cafe. I have her birthday in the company phone number, a lot of the music I listen to there is because of her.
Initially, Byerly intended to open the business four years ago, but things didn’t go as planned. Having spent years in a managerial position in the restaurant industry in several states, he vowed to never return to the food industry unless it was for himself. However, even then, he never wanted to be the face of the company. He started out slowly at first, attending Holiday Bazaars and distributing merchandise before going into full-time business seven months ago.
“Things were placed as they should have been. Maybe they didn’t always make sense to me or the schedule didn’t work originally or as I expected, ”he said.
Byerly said he had many memories of being in the spot as a child and that he would find solace in walking through the center as an adult. Eventually, he started to focus on empty storefronts on his walks and ended up calling one of them home.
He gets a lot of questions as to why he is in that particular location and if he would like to move to a more visible or more frequented area. But Byerly said his current location is perfect for him and bigger than his business.
“My vision and my version of success doesn’t have to be someone else’s and that’s fine with me,” he said. “So I’m just like, if I’m able to do this and it’s for me and for a big goal, then I’m moving forward.”
The Carolina Red Café offers organic and fair trade coffee that is locally roasted in small quantities and offers fresh pastries and bread. There is a wide variety of teas and juices, including loose tea, which can be personalized and handcrafted for individual or wholesale orders. Byerly showcases several local women-owned businesses in the cafe, showcasing their baked goodies, sauces, personalized products and unique greeting cards. A total of ten companies are on display at the café, two of which are not-for-profit. Byerly typically hosts vendor events at least quarterly to highlight local Triad businesses. Some companies currently in the store are Beloved Bake Shop, Ethel B Designs, Glittery Things Etc., Books for Birthdays, Inc., and Monk’s Sexy Sauce.
“It has been nice to be able to help a lot of other people and other small businesses. I have received a lot of support, whether from adoptive mothers or women throughout my life, but especially since my mother passed away, and I love being able to provide them with this platform to develop their own company.
He doesn’t charge any of the women for their sales, other than taxes and credit card fees, so they get all of their profits and he tracks the inventory they leave in the cafe.
“I like to see other people do well,” Byerly said. “There have been other people who have provided me with platforms at some point in my life and I want to pass that on.”
Michelin Monk, owner and maker of Monk’s Sexy Sauce LLC, said Byerly suggested he bring his sauce to the cafe and it was a great thing for his business.
“Rodney and I came to school together and he is and always has been a true friend,” Monk said. “My sauce is on display to many types of people, often without my knowing it, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity Rodney has given me.”
Partnering with nonprofits and giving back to the community is also important to the High Point native. Although he already spends his time coaching at Westchester Country Day School and High Point Star Aquatics, he is looking for other ways to make a difference.
“It’s definitely a personal change. I think before my mother passed away I was never interested in volunteering or giving things to a large extent, ”he said. “I can’t just say this business is an honor or to honor my mom and not do some things that she would do and take some action that she would do too.”
He found a way to do this with the Red Fund, which can be found proudly displayed in the cafe.
The Red Fund is a sponsorship for the nonprofit Books for Birthdays, Inc., an organization that provides new personalized books to placed children on their birthday. Aside from the impact of having something brand new to them, the hope is that it will spark lifelong interest in reading, according to its website.
For Byerly, it was representative of his mother whom he described as taking advantage of all special occasions and never meeting a stranger. It’s ironic because he met the couple who run the organization, strangers for him at the time, walking around the old mall.
“I was never really a big reader myself, but I definitely had a connection with the youth in the foster homes,” he said. “I could see how what she was doing and how to get into reading crossed all socio-economic boundaries and how it helped you educate yourself and navigate other avenues in life. It was really important to me. ”
Byerly said that while he expected coffee to be successful, he was not prepared for it to thrive as quickly and as organically as he did.
“I really appreciate the connection and the organic nature of it all. I feel like at this point, if you found me, you were supposed to be here. It is a blessing for me to see the good vibes and interactions that complete strangers can end up having and the kindness that you can still see, in individuals, in the community and in the world around you. I see the enthusiasm that others have for me, and that causes me to stop and enjoy the moment, ”he said. “Let’s go ahead and take a minute to soak up that, and then once you’re done, we’ll just go ahead and keep moving.”
The High Point Central graduate said that regardless of his location in the city, he had no intention of competing with anyone else, whether it was another high-profile cafe or ‘a local java joint.
“Other people can look at us like that, but I’m doing my own thing and I have my own goal,” he said. “I try to do things that other people don’t. Just having a place here is good. This side of town has also become more meaningful to me, because of where I grew up. Few people and places are ready to open a business there or recognize the area. I feel good where I am.
When asked what his mother would think of Carolina Red Café, Byerly paused to think about the question.
“I hear him say ‘Go Son Go! She was a cheerleader. I can see her there, excited, smiling, laughing and just happy for me, ”he said. “She would probably come visit us every day.”