The Coffee Tavern opening day

Coffee Tavern, pictured here in January 2017, opened at their location on 2821 Second Avenue North.

The Coffee Tavern was mostly empty Tuesday morning, but it was open. And owner Larry Heafner intends to keep it that way.

The shop became the target of online vitriol in November, before it first opened, when Heafner's offensive online comments gained local attention on Facebook. Heafner, who is a co-owner, postponed the opening of the shop.

On Thursday, he lit the "open" sign and started taking customers, but he said he's ceased his online presence, personal and professional.

"I won't use social media to advertise this place for nothing," he said on Tuesday.

Social media was the platform for a string of Heafner's Facebook posts that became widely shared. Some were sexist and racist in nature. In one post he commented about "monkeys" being hung beneath an online video of an assault. The assailants in the video were black.

Facebook users condemned the comments, and media reports followed. In real life, however, the shop scene has been quiet.

"I had one person come in that asked me" about the Facebook comments, Heafner said. He characterized her as a "liberal girl" who wanted to discuss his political views. He said a couple people have come by to take pictures of the shop. 

A website under The Coffee Tavern's name appeared online, which hosted screenshots of Heafner's online musings.

Heafner said he doesn't know whether his comments will hurt his business.

Within about a half-hour stretch Tuesday morning, three customers came through. First, two women came in and ordered drinks. One said they wanted to "check out the new spot." Later, a man came in to order a hot chocolate.

Neither mentioned Heafner's posts, which are now intrinsically linked to the shop on the internet. The customers took their drinks to go.

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