Corker of a task

Monday, June 20, 2005

By now, Barry and Kimberly Robinson were hoping to be toasting the fact that crowds of wine-ophiles and coffee junkies were lined up at Cup & Cork, their new downtown Cape Girardeau cafe.

Instead, their building at 46 N. Main St. looks a wreck.

Portions of the floor have been pulled up. Near the back of the building is what looks to be a drop-off into an earthy pit. Two-by-fours are stacked near a section where customers were already supposed to be perusing fine local wines or scouring over coffees with interesting names like Arabian Mocha and Highlander Grog.

"We were hoping to be open by April," said Barry Robinson. "But the city said we had to make some changes, so that's what we're doing."

The building's current state would only make it more impressive if they can pull off their plans -- to have the shop up and running by the second week of July, with the renovation work finished.

"The construction company tells us they'll be doing the finishing touches the first week of July, so we're shooting for an opening the week after that," Barry Robinson said.

Currently, the building is crawling with construction workers who are going about the task of transforming the interior to match the Robinsons' upscale vision.

The work includes installing some ADA-approved restrooms. They're also having to rework some of the electrical wiring.

Since they were making those improvements, they've also done some things they wanted to do to begin with, which include putting in a raised platform for live music and other entertainment, adding a fireplace, putting in a couple of offices and creating some outside seating.

Massage therapy too

The back-area pit will be converted into a wine cellar and have an adjoining meeting room for people who want to have private parties and wine tastings. Also, the work gives Kimberly Robinson, a certified massage therapist, a chance to add her area of expertise.

A room above the wine cellar will be created to give her a room and nearby office dedicated to various types of ache-soothing rubdowns.

The business will feature wines, sausages and cheese, as well as more than 18 varieties of cappuccinos and coffees, Robinson said.

It's an interesting concept and one that should blend in well with downtown's diverse atmosphere, the Robinsons say.

"We want to create a place away from home," Barry Robinson said. "For most people, there's home, work and another place. We want to be that other place."

But don't expect something too snooty, the Robinsons say.

"We want Joe Blow to feel comfortable here, too," Kimberly Robinson said.

Old Town Cape executive director Tim Arbeiter said that he thinks Cup & Cork will be a complement to downtown.

"To have a coffee and wine bar married into one business, it will add a unique mixture to the businesses already down there," he said. "With the other good restaurants and shops, it will be a good experience for not only customers in Cape Girardeau, but the entire region to eat, shop and relax. It will be a major addition to Main Street."

The Robinsons' dream took root when the Clinton, Okla., natives lived in Cape Girardeau starting in 1994, when Barry Robinson helped open the Drury Suites and later opened the Hampton Inn.

He managed both hotels until he went to work for Drury Southwest as director of operations, where he oversaw various operations like D-Mart homes, Pizza Inn and Dairy Queen in Fruitland and the Bavarian Hall.

Robinson did that until 1997 when he moved to Lee's Summit near Kansas City, Mo., where he went back to hotel work and opened a Hampton Inn. Later, he took a job with a national coffee brand for two years.

But Cape Girardeau always stayed in their mind's periphery, so when Barry Robinson became interested in opening a business of his own, it was their first choice.

"Our first conversation was that we didn't like big cities," said Robinson, who has lived in places like Dallas and Phoenix.

"We also have many good memories here," Kimberly added. "It's a good town to raise kids and it's close enough to St. Louis if you need a big city for something."

So late last year, Barry Robinson visited downtown Cape Girardeau. He ran into Chuck McGinty of McGinty's Jewelers, whom he told of his plans. McGinty took him to the close-by building that most recently had been Space Walker Internet Cafe and then introduced him to the building's owner, John Wyman.

Robinson liked the spot because it's along a high-traffic street and near the river. They also liked what was happening downtown, with the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge and other high-profile downtown projects.

"There's a plan for downtown and we want to be part of it," Kimberly Robinson said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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