Popular bakery expands in downtown Raleigh after opening first locations months before COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A mostly barren, dark storefront on Fayetteville Street will soon be welcoming customers again. Tama Tea shop shuttered doors in Downtown Raleigh during the pandemic, offering another small business opportunity.

Union Special is getting ready to open a second store after seeing immense success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm excited to be downtown for sure," said Union Special Owner Andrew Ullom.

Some weekends, 500 people come through Union Special for brunch. It's not bad considering the bakery still isn't offering indoor seating. Every order is being made to-go.

Ullom said the model is working well during pandemic and he's expanding.

"I think the fast casual and counter service spot that we have translates really well to take-out only and so we're really lucky we had that set up in the beginning, but we also worked really hard to keep open," said Ullom.

The original spot in Gateway Plaza hasn't been around too long. It opened a mere five months before the pandemic.

With it came a lot of stress and support.

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"I don't really sleep a lot," Ullom joked while adding, "I'm very proud of the work that we've done and the work we've accomplished as a crew."

He's getting ready to open the second location at a trying time for downtown Raleigh.

Spots are hurting and fighting to build up sales. A few places have closed for good.

The advocacy group Shop Local Raleigh said it'll take more people owners, like Ullom, to get the area back on solid ground.

"For small businesses wanting to invest down there, it's a great opportunity. Downtown will come back," said Shop Local Raleigh Executive Director Jen Martin.

"I'm confident in the return on downtown, I really am, and I think there's a lot to look forward to," said Ullom.

The spot should be opening late summer or early fall.
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