Complete instructions on how to stumble upon something truly unique and awesome in Durham, North Carolina: go to Durham, North Carolina.
That is exactly how I discovered the treasure in Bull Durham’s backyard. If iPhone memory serves me right it was a fine Saturday morning in the Bull City and I had moseyed on into the downtown area to score some excellent local produce at the Durham Farmer’s Market.
I found a prime parking spot on Foster Street in front of an unassuming brick building with “Bullitt Studios” beautifully posted above the door. The last remnant of a production studio that is no more and perhaps one of the endless, shameless plays on “bull” in the Bull City. Who knows? Google and a few local probably, that’s who.
Before evening fully closing the car door, I knew it was a going to be a quick minute before I reached the actual Farmer’s Market as adventure was calling, or rather the overwhelming urge to snoop around the area. I busted out my handy iPhone, closed the car and locked it and then locked it again for good OCD measure.
I popped across the way and began taking in the sights, realizing that I was somehow gravitating to Cocoa Cinnamon despite the fact it’s in the opposite direction of the Durham Farmer’s Market and that I was already sipping on my third homemade cup of coffee. Catching myself short of a caffeine overload, I stopped and looked in the windows of a Durham standard: an aged, brick warehouse, most likely of the tobacco nature.
Although at first glance the building looks to be out of commission it is the Nomadic Trading Company and I’d later find out that true to Durham fashion, there’s plans in the works to fix the building up. Brick by precious and honored brick, the Bull City is on the rise, but forever dirty. It’s a Durham thing.
Although it felt as though the espresso beans were calling to me from Cocoa Cinnamon’s, whispering sweet nothings of flawlessly executed Americanos, I continued on my way towards the Durham Farmer’s Market. I made it a whopping 10 feet before I found another building that was awesome and demanded to be crawled all over with a sign that read, “Authorized Personnel Only.”
Appreciating the recognition I took a photo of the sign and then unhooked the chain it was on to take my self-authorized self to get a closer look at the place. The brick work was in incrediBULL condition and the authentic, outdoor industrial light fixture was on point.
Trying to get a better picture of said fixture, I nearly fell to my doom… or at least to a bruised back. I discovered there was no railing in place to prevent falls and it almost seemed as though the area was still under construction. Why wouldn’t they block that off somehow to keep people out of harm’s way? Sheesh.
I took my authorized self out of harm’s way to continue my explorations elsewhere. I hopped over the chain and this time made it a solid 20 feet before something awesome caught my attention: a sign with a couple booze barrels reading “Rickhouse.”
I didn’t rightly know what that meant at the time, but I did know this was a place I needed to check out in depth and with supervision. I went on my merry way and proceeded to buy an absurd amount of delicious local bell peppers and tomatoes, two things you can never have enough of, especially if they’re purple or stripey.
Returning to my car with my sweet haul of the day in tow, I noticed the sign yet again and decided it was best to email the proprietor right then and there before I forgot. Within 24 hours I got an eager response and an invite to come on in later that week.
It was about the time I walked through the doors of the Rickhouse that I realized I had no idea who I was meeting with. Note to self: get names. Names are good. I opted to go with the ol’ “look nice but clearly lost” routine and it worked. As I walked past a team arranging event décor, a man piped up and said, “you must be Sheila!”
Sweet! I knew the answer to that one.
Daniel Kulenic proceeded to introduce himself and tell me about the Rickhouse. “I went to UNC. I bought my first place in Chapel Hill and moved to Durham shortly thereafter. I’ve lived in Durham Proper’ for 12 to 15 years.”
What? Durham Proper? Durham is and has been called A LOT of things, but I’d never heard proper thrown out in reference to the Bull City. I let out a reflexive laugh and Daniel picked up on exactly what was so funny. Rolling with it, he went on to explain that was his way of saying he’s a local, but acknowledges that around here, there’s no real hard-and-fast definition of local.
“What does local mean? If you ask 10 different people, you would get 7 different answers. Everyone has a different opinion of what ‘local’ means. It is an interesting place. You have to think most people aren’t “local.” Daniel said.
With a team of people swirling all around in a big, beautiful space, I gathered that Daniel did a bit more than point out the shortcomings of ambiguous catch phrases. I was ever hopeful that it had something to do with a bull at any minute, as I was wondering how to tie this all in to The Bulls of Durham. I asked him what he does.
Daniel answered, “I’m making dreams happen. That’s a joke a like to tell my wife, referring to getting into the wedding business, even those she is still waiting on me to make them happen for her!”
To follow The Bulls of Durham book project email TheBullsOfDurham at gmail.com and say, “Yo Sheila. Please put me on the mailing list.” Also follow the project on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Oh! And now that this website is a thing, you can check back here. Make it your homepage. Tell all your friends. Write home to your mom about it. :::Flashes Bull City hand sign.:::
Oh and treat yourself, your mom and everyone you love to the best coffee mug of all time, which happens to support this here book project. No big deal. But very big deal. Click HERE.
Sheila Amir is a health & nutrition writer who fell in love with Durham, North Carolina and starting writing a book about it.