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Local Restaurant Makes Use of Local Resources

By Jen Nix, Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Nana’s, a well-established, fine-dining restaurant in Durham, North Carolina for 30 years, closed in 2020 due to the pandemic and was sitting vacant in Durham’s Rockwood Plaza, waiting for a new tenant. Fast forward to 2022: Enter new co-owners and co-chefs, Matt Kelly and Nate Garyantes, who have now updated the space and opened the new Nanas to the public on Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

With the help of designer Shaun Sundholm, general contractor Jay Jergensen, and both Brian Owen and Tyler Clark at ShopBot Tools, they have transformed the space into a restaurant and bar rich with the textures of velvet, dark walnut, brass, leather, mirrors, rattan, glossy green tile, and just a touch of fringe.

In speaking with Sundholm, I learned that Kelly is the one that brought him on-board to do the redesign of the Nanas interior, after having worked together on one of Kelly’s other Durham dining establishments, Mateo Bar de Tapas. He was initially brought on to do the branding for the restaurant, but his role evolved into helping Matt bring his vision to life, one of warmth and a sense of “walking in the woods.”

As he put it “I did the designing, but Jay and Brian really did all the engineering, fabrication, and installation of the interior. There were things I didn’t know that it would be possible to do, and a lot of that could be done thanks to ShopBot machines.” While it was Sundholm’s designs that were the initial vision of Nanas, it is Jergensen, in conjunction with Owen and Clark at ShopBot Tools, that made his design a reality—and even beyond what he had envisioned. It is Jergensen that actually brought ShopBot on-board to help with the project, he and Owen already knew one another and when he realized he was going to need some complex parts cut with precision, he got in contact with him and asked if ShopBot could help.

One of the many panels for the new Nanas cut on the ShopBot PRSalpha ATC machine located in ShopBot's own production area.

The original Nana’s had an abundance of cherry wood as a part of its storied interior, but with the goal of creating something warm and also forest and woodsy feeling, the wood used for the new Nanas is dark walnut. Jergensen sourced the sheet goods from a North Carolina location of Horizon Forest Products and the solid hardwood from The Hardwood Store of North Carolina. He chose all of the wood being used at one time to assure color and grain matches—from slats in the walls and ceilings, to the curved archways and bar and service areas.

Detail of kerfing machine work being done on the PRSalpha ATC in ShopBot's production area. Kerfing is used to create bendable wood to form curves.

It turns out that the quirkiness of the building caused several challenges when it came to making the interiors level and even throughout. Owen was telling me about a section of the bar that took a particular bit of creative problem-solving. “Because of the way the interior was originally constructed, there are some areas where depths and lengths are not the same throughout. Sometimes measurements had to be taken multiple times and in various spots within a space in order to create something that looked consistent to the viewer.” While some of the shapes machined worked well with the initial cuts that Clark made using a ShopBot PRSalpha ATC, there were others that required some reworking due to the inconsistencies in the sizes and shapes of the areas they were being used in. This was just one of the many reasons it was helpful for Jergensen to be working with ShopBot on the wood fabrication. With ShopBot being a Durham-based company, there were times that Owen or Clark would receive new dimensions for a part and they could have it cut and delivered that same day—sometimes within just a couple of hours.

This modern, yet cozy, space is a great example of the success of designers, contractors, and fabricators working well together to achieve an artistic vision that is a feast for the eyes.

Some of the interior spaces within the new Nanas restaurant in Durham, NC.

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