Ted’s Fun on the River
2 Castle Street
8/26: Port City Trio • Free
7 – 9 p.m. • tedsfun.com
One day, while listening to WHQR’s National Public Radio, Julia Jewell heard about Michael Johnathan’s “WoodSongs Coffee House Old-Time Radio Hour” opening WoodSongs Coffee Houses across the country. As co-owner with husband Kelly of Ted’s Fun on the River—and in the spirit of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie—Jewell applied and received permission for Ted’s to be under the WoodSongs umbrella.
“[We can] use their name and logo, and they advertise us on their national website,” Jewell said. “We are the only WoodSongs Coffee House in eastern North Carolina, and there is only one other in the state.”
Open only since February, Ted’s already has a loyal following of locals who bring their out-of-town guests to hear the music of the Port City Trio (the Jewells plus Woody Dobson) every second and fourth Friday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The first Friday is an acoustic jam, and the third Friday usually features an act “that has nothing to do with us.” On Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, a piano player tickles the ivories and invites folks to join in.
Ted’s provides its guests more opportunities than listening to outstanding music. Nestled on the corner of Castle and Water streets, it looks and feels like a general store of yesteryear. There are Norman Rockwell prints on the walls and Wayne Upchurch’s photos of old Wilmingtonians and yawning cats. The ambiance invites visitors to sit down in the comfy chairs and sofas with a cold drink or cup of coffee, and talk or reflect.
“Ted’s offers different things for different people,” Jewell said. “The other day four of us had a nice, open dialogue. There was a senior citizen worried about his social security, a conservative worried about his business investments, a young worker for the Democratic Party, and me talking about the economy. There were four entirely different takes on it, and we all felt safe to express our views. I like that. I like the feeling of a general store—sitting around playing chess and checkers, talking politics, talking shop.
“There are plenty of places for college kids to go,” she continued. “We want a place for grown-ups who want to enjoy themselves, want to have a conversation, and want to feel like they’re in a friendly atmosphere. We do not want to be another bar. Young people do come in, mainly to rent a boat and have a beer when they come back.”
Ted’s rents bikes, canoes and kayaks while also selling ice and bait. Located right in front of the Cape Fear River, it is an easy walk to the newly renovated Dram Tree Park boat ramp.
There is talk that the city will further develop the park. In the meantime, Jewell plans to have local vendors in place next summer to sell produce and other wares indigenous to the Wilmington area.
“We own two lots on either side of Ted’s, and one is perfect for events or even a small wedding,” Jewell said. “We can close the store for private parties and set up a tent. One local business had a staff retreat here. The employees drank our coffee, and when it was time for lunch, they ordered out, and we had it delivered, no extra charge.”
The Port City Trio might even be persuaded to play a private gig. They can’t put their music in a box, but describe it as hybrids of the great American songbook: principally songs from Broadway plus Hollywood musicals from the 1920s to 1960s. Think of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” Duke Ellington’s “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” Harry Warren’s “At Last” and Jewell’s favorite, “My Funny Valentine” by Rodgers and Hart. The Jewells enjoy playing a few of their original compositions for fans, too.
Two ardent listeners, Chris and Jim Beck, love Ted’s great music and casual atmosphere. “It’s already the best coffee in town,” Jim said, “and the WoodSong coffee promises to be even better.”
Chris sums it up best, however. “Ted’s is like walking back in time.”
This Friday, the Port City Trio will take the stage from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. On September 23rd, WoodSong star Dr. Ed Bach and his renowned Market Street Brass quintet present a night of jazz at Ted’s Fun on the River.
For more information, call Julia Jewell at 910-231-5871 or go to www.tedsfun.com.