C’est si BON: Local café and art gallery changes its beat

Photo by Emily White. Photo by Emily White.

Charlottesville’s newest event venue, café, and chill spot, BON, is kicking off its first month of business on the ground floor of the Pink Warehouse on South Street.  Though BON has existed as a drum shop and mecca for drum circle enthusiasts for almost five years, its reopening in May marked a recommitment to fostering creativity and community building.

Owner John Noble first opened BON with his late wife, Dee Dee Bellson, a well known jazz singer who sang with Big Ray and the Kool Kats, and daughter of actress and singer Pearl Bailey and Louie Belson, who kept the beat for Duke Ellington. Though Bellson had rhythm in her bloodline, the couple got turned on to drumming by Remo Belli, founder of Remo drums, and opened BON as a nonprofit in 2009 in the York Place Plaza.

Shortly after Dee Dee passed away in 2009, grief-stricken and with the economy flailing, Noble took on sole proprietorship of BON and moved his shop to the Pink Warehouse, a mecca for musicians, artists, and creative characters. “It was a crazy business plan,” said Noble, “but I just set up and waited to see who would come by. My neighbors, this is for them. It sounds naïve and simple, but we just want to do good for the community.”

Swing by the space seven days a week for a traditional Chinese tea service, with leaves sourced from Staunton’s White Lotus Tea Club, or an espresso drink expertly poured by Café Manager Gil Somers, whose face you may recognize from the Mudhouse, or as the winner of the most recent local barista showdown (“The Bare Knuckle Throwdown” on June 2 at Bon), where he took the grand prize—a blinged out Panda statue.

“He’s more of a scientist than a barista,” said Lorenzo with pride.

The café is focusing on local and artisan fare, using in house small-batch syrups, almond milks, fresh salads, and making bar drinks from beans joint roasted with the Shark Mountain Coffee Company, at UVA’s Darden Business School and a warehouse in Staunton.

In addition to hosting a thriving café scene, Noble envisions the space evolving into a permanent art market place, a private event venue, and a featured First Fridays gallery. Much of this responsibility will fall to Bon’s perpetually smiling Art Coordinator, madrileno Javier “Chicho” Lorenzo, the vibrant painter behind the murals at the Walker School, The Southern Café and Music Hall, and the Crozet Elementary School.

The Pirate’s Galleria Art Fair, an arts and crafts show for creative rogues, will be the first major art event in the newly renovated BON. Local makers of one of a kind and handmade jewelry, terrariums, blown glass, leather work, slab furniture, and ceramics will gather this weekend to peddle their wares.

Friday 6/7 and Saturday 6/8  The Pirate’s Galleria Art Fair, 6-10pm, 7am-10pm. BON, 100 W. South st. #1D. 244-3786.