SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The large black banner draped over the darkened widows of an empty storefront in the quaint South County Commons shopping and dining complex appears to simply read “Audrey’s COFFEE HOUSE & LOUNGE.”
If passersby look closely, however, they will notice that instead of an apostrophe between the “y” and the “s” in “Audrey’s,” there is a rose. And if they know who owns the new business, the decorative grammatical swap makes perfect sense.
“Audrey’s,” slated to open in mid-September, has been a lifelong dream of Rhode Island native Jared Haibon. Haibon and his wife and former “Bachelor in Paradise” cast mate, Ashley Iaconetti, have been putting in long hours transforming a former coffee shop into what he hopes will be a “comfy and cozy” gathering spot offering innovative and largely locally sourced food and drinks, including specialized martinis.
“I’ve always really liked this area and the space is ideal,” said Haibon, 32. “I especially love the stone fireplace. It’s so warm and inviting. I’ve also always been a big fan of lofts, and this has that loft feel to it.”
On a recent rainy afternoon, Haibon and Iaconetti, accompanied by their 3-year-old rescue pup, Lois Lane, were unpacking boxes and trying to make a dent in the seemingly never-ending to-do list. The tasks were more daunting because Iaconetti, 33, is nearing the end of her first trimester with the couple’s first child and experiencing daily morning sickness that is not, she lamented, limited solely to mornings.
Arguably one of “The Bachelor” franchise’s most popular couples, Haibon and Iaconetti met in the summer of 2015 while filming season two of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise.” They didn’t hit it off right away, but kept in touch and soon after reconnecting in 2018, began dating and got engaged. They were married at Rosecliff Manor in Newport the following year and, after living in Los Angeles for a short time, are renting an apartment in Cranston while building a new home in East Greenwich.
Iaconetti, who is from Great Falls, Va., said she and Haibon knew all along they would eventually move back to his home state to start a family. “I put it in my [wedding] vows that I would live here,” said Iaconetti, who has a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University and cohosts two podcasts. “I knew how important it was to Jared, and I love it here.”
Drawing on his experience in the hospitality industry, which includes restaurant management, Haibon said he wants Audrey’s (named after Iaconetti’s mom) to have a “Cheers” vibe to it, where regulars can gather in a relaxed, comfortable space. There will be nods to “The Bachelor,” throughout — including the ever-present rose symbol and signature drinks that tie into the long-running reality dating show — but Audrey’s will also have a distinct New England feel, with pop culture and sports memorabilia throughout. Two large TVs will be mounted on the walls and live music will be offered.
There will be a philanthropic element to the new business, too, with a portion of proceeds going to charities based in Rhode Island and in Iaconetti’s home state of Virginia.
Audrey’s will also serve coffee with a “Bachelor” connection. It will come from Generous Coffee Co., which was cofounded by Ben Higgins, a fellow “Bachelor” alum, friend of the couple, and cohost of the “Almost Famous” podcast with Iaconetti. The Denver-based company funds nonprofits and sustainable social enterprises and works with exporters from Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, and Rwanda.
“For Jared, owning and operating his own business is what he always wanted to do and he is putting everything he has into it,” Iaconetti said. “I’m really proud of him.”
While taking the compliment graciously, Haibon said the enormity of the undertaking — especially with the impact the pandemic has had on the restaurant industry and the uncertainty of COVID-19 variants — is not lost on him.
“I’m not going to lie: Starting your own business at any time is nerve-wracking,” said Haibon, who just completed the final credits he needed to receive a bachelor’s degree in history from Rhode Island College. “But we are creating something that we would like, where we would like to hang out, and we think that other people are also going to really like it, too.”