After decades of dreaming and coordinating, an Agatha Christie cafe finds home in a storied building in Savannah’s North Historic District.
History sits on top of itself at Agatha’s Coffee and Tea House (516 Martin Luther King Jr.Boulevard) and King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Bar (the to-be-open jazz club attached to Agatha’s). The building has been a funeral home, a jazz club, seven restaurants, and the pool hall where King Oliver–Louis Armstrong’s mentor and leader of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band swept the floors late in life after a gum disease rendered him unable to play the trumpet.
Today, the address is part ASMR cafe, part treasure hunt, and part-time warp to 1930s Savannah, a hundred years removed from the fast food chains and modern amenities across the street.
Inside, dim light dances across antiques and books that could’ve composed Agatha Christie’s library; jazz licks and storm sounds mingle on a flickering radio to the left of chess-playing customers. With the employees dressed in period costumes, time traveling is easy at Agatha’s — if you can suspend your disbelief while typing on your MacBook and sipping an iced caramel latte.
The tea house is the brainchild of Darrin Farr and a masterclass in dreaming, organizing, and executing. Twenty-seven years ago, when Farr was working in events public relations for Disney, he frequented a bar that would serve as the blueprint for Agatha’s.
“There was a hotel bar at Disney World called the Bellevue Room,” he says, “and it had books, old radios, and radio shows going. But it was bright white and didn’t have warmth. I said if I ever do my own place, I want to have kind of an Agatha Christie feel — a mystery cafe alive with warm lighting.”
At that time, Farr began accumulating the vintage art and decor that cements Agatha’s authenticity. “I have enough antiques in my house to build three more Agatha’s,” he says — but it wasn’t until ten years ago when he met Jonathan Clark that his idea grew legs.
With his long hair and breezy attitude, Clark is a modern Renaissance man; he builds, bakes, and sees big ideas through impeccable execution. Most furniture and fixtures not sourced from Farr’s personal collection were constructed by Clark.
“Jonathan said to me, let’s collaborate because I can build and take your dreams to fruition,” says Farr. And so they did, along with Clark’s partner in business and life Taía Harris.
After a decade of tireless dedication, the trio’s creation is distinctive, stylish, and just so Savannah. It’s no surprise a similar cafe (unrelated to the team) didn’t work out in Atlanta. A cafe like this simply has to exist in the push and pull of Savannah’s romantic past and present.
As the cost of living in Savannah rises, Agatha’s deserves recognition for being the only place in town where a cup of tea is still under two dollars. Agatha’s is affordable by design. “I spent many years as a homeless person,” shares Clark, “I just want a space where people can come in, escape into ambiance, enjoy themselves, and not have to pay their rent late because of it.”
The coffee house’s confections are also affordable and rival some of the best. Clark and David Laughlin, the artist behind King Oliver’s and Agatha’s murals, are co-bakers in the kitchen, responsible for the smells of English toffee cookies, blueberry pear scones, and quiches that warm the air.
However, they aren’t stopping at scones.
To help patrons refuel after boogieing, King Oliver’s (opening this fall) will serve Creole fare. But, for now, the team is starting simple: with pizza and wings tested and perfected by Clark. Classic Pennsylvania Dutch delights (a nod to Clark’s heritage) like bacon and cheddar pizza and renditions with roots further afield, like chili lime wings, collide on King Oliver’s current DoorDash menu.
Feel like solving a mystery? Type agathascoffeeandteahouse into your Instagram search bar.
Objects frequently go missing in Agatha’s and are shared to their account by detective Percy — the lead detective inspector in the cafe’s story world.
Though it’s Agatha Christie-inspired, saying “Christie” is legally off-limits. So, instead, the tea house introduces patrons to the legend of Agatha Harper, a suspected murderer who has been missing for months. Is she dead? Is she on the run? Detective Percy is determined to find out, and his murder board is on display for your contemplation in the cafe.
Harris, Clark, and Farr have poured their time, energy, and finances into Agatha’s and King Oliver’s, but there’s still more to do. To ensure this ambitious project thrives, Savannahians must show support.
What does an ideal Friday night at Agatha’s and King Oliver’s look like five years from now? For Harris, it would be “coffee cocktails. Charcuterie boards. Wine. Maybe a couple of people are crocheting. Some older gentleman is giving life-changing advice to young people.” Simply: “an atmosphere that encourages conversation.”
Become a regular. Buy a book. Donate to their GoFundMe. Solve a mystery. Salvage Savannah.