The bar inside the Blue Jay Bistro restaurant. 

The Daphne’s Coffee Shop grand opening celebration on Dec. 18 introduced one new business to downtown Littleton while also offering a preview of neighboring Blue Jay Bistro, which is expected to open in the next couple of months.

Both places, along with Main Street Wines, flanked by Daphne’s and Blue Jay Bistro, are part of a revitalization effort funded by the Ed Fitts Charitable Foundation.

The tagline for Blue Jay Bistro is “escape the ordinary.”

Ashleigh Fleming, Blue Jay Bistro’s executive chef and Daphne’s manager, echoed that sentiment at the coffee shop’s opening.

“We’re really looking forward to definitely veering away from what’s available around here,” Fleming said. “We’re going for a modern American cuisine. It definitely has some Southern moods to it, kind of a Texas accent that’s throughout a lot of our dishes.”

Fleming said Blue Jay Bistro’s menu should be unveiled soon. She has been working through several iterations of it and is still narrowing down the final version.

A Texas native herself, Fleming hails from the bustling metropolis of Houston, but is drawn to small-town life because of spending time with her grandmother in places more similar to the Littleton area.

Previously, Fleming was based in the Triangle, but the Culinary Institute of America graduate has a wealth of restaurant experience around the country including at Maryland’s Congressional Country Club, which is well known for hosting prominent PGA Tour events.

Earlier this year, Fleming opened a restaurant in Apex, N.C. called the Peak on Salem.

“I was looking for new opportunities,” Fleming said, “and to get out of the city and a little closer to like how I grew up.”

When she met Ed and Deb Fitts, she was sold on joining the team. “This is amazing and I want to be a part of this,” Fleming thought. “I’m really excited to be out here.”

The name “Blue Jay” pays homage to the Blue Jays of Littleton High School, Ed Fitts’ alma mater.

Two years ago, Fitts made headlines for donating millions of dollars to help fund a new engineering building at his other alma mater: N.C. State University. Fitts-Woolard Hall bears his name along with that of Ed Woolard, another N.C. State engineering alum and successful businessman.

The Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering became the first named academic department in the history of N.C. State in 2005 following Fitts’ $10 million donation.

Fitts, the founder of what would become the top fast food-packaging company in the world, said he has always maintained a soft spot in his heart for Littleton.

“We wanted to bring some economic development here,” Fitts said, “and you can’t do it if you don’t have the right infrastructure.”

Aesthetically, the consensus is that the builders knocked it out of the park on Blue Jay Bistro, which will feature a bar, outdoor dining, event space, and a parking lot out back that is currently under construction.

“When I saw the drawings of this bar, I was a little worried that the contractor would actually be able to make it look like that,” said Ed Fitts Charitable Foundation consultant Stacy Woodhouse. “It was so beautiful and he did a great job. We have amazing contractors on this job.”

Woodhouse said visitors have compared the finishing touches on the restaurant’s interior to establishments in New York or Charleston.

“Escape the ordinary,” indeed.

“I’ve been to most major cities in the United States,” Woodhouse said, “and it’s very rare that you see finishes like this. It’s just done so well.”