Here For The Right Reasons
Rhode Island Monthly
It’s early December and a group of three women in their late twenties approaches Audrey’s Coffee House and Lounge from the sidewalk. It’s the grand opening of the new coffee shop and cocktail bar at South County Commons in South Kingstown, which used to be Brewed Awakenings. When the women see the shop owner outside walking his white, fluffy dog, Lois Lane, they erupt into a fit of giggles even before pulling the front door handle.
They finally open the door and settle into the corner window set up with a sofa and coffee table. “Once we got the nerve to walk inside, we were really giddy when he talked to us,’’ says one of the women, Giana Blaise of Westerly. “What did he even ask us? I blacked out.”
Soon they are sipping mudslides and sugar cookie-flavored cocktails and feeling more relaxed. Once they get halfway through their first round of drinks, they’re already discussing what they’ll order next at the counter. While today they are set on seasonal cocktails, some of the nonalcoholic coffee drinks have fun names like “Here for the Wrong Reasons” (Nutella Amaretto latte), “The Most Dramatic Mocha Ever!” (iced almond coconut mocha) and “A Trip to Paradise” (banana hazelnut iced coffee with toasted coconut).
Meanwhile, a handsome young man with shoulder-skimming wavy brown hair, two weeks worth of scruff and wearing a black backwards ball cap and gray hoodie approaches the table with a $30 charcuterie board decked out with everything from cheese and rose-shaped salami to chocolate cookies, pickles and candied nuts. As he swoops in to deliver the platter to their table, the women scramble to grab their phones in time. They’re on the edge of their seats on the sofa, and excitement builds as one of them successfully films the moment as if a touchdown pass is about to take place.
“Jared is delivering our food,” narrates Blaise with disbelief as the video records and Jared Haibon awkwardly smiles while placing the board on their table. “Is that a photo or a video?” he says with a good-natured laugh. The video is instantly posted on Instagram.
The coffee shop and cocktail bar is owned by former “Bachelorette” cast member Jared Haibon and his wife, former “Bachelor” contestant Ashley Iaconetti, who met in the summer of 2015 in Mexico as castmates and love interests on the popular Season 2 of the spinoff show “Bachelor in Paradise.” Their romantic relationship started on the series but fizzled out by Season 3, and evolved into them becoming best friends. Then, in May of 2018, they surprised everyone and announced they were an official couple in a video titled “Story of Us” and were engaged by the next month. They married in Newport at Rosecliff in August of 2019, settled down in Rhode Island and recently moved into a new home in West Greenwich with their two-month-old baby, Dawson Dimitri Brady Haibon.
While the table of women suspected they might see Haibon and Iaconetti circulating at the shop, they never dreamed “Jared himself” would be serving their table. But with a hospitality industry labor shortage, and a hands-on approach as an owner, Haibon can be seen handling everything from bartending and cooking to doing the dishes and stepping in as a server at Audrey’s.
“He hand-delivered it. It’s cool he’s actually working. He even takes out his own trash,” Blaise says. “He’s a celebrity to us, but he’s also a real person. We’ll quit our jobs and work here if he wants us.”
“I think it’s really cool that they landed in Rhode Island because everyone from the show tends to go to L.A. after,” adds her friend, Megan Hollander, who traveled here from Connecticut.
Before opening Audrey’s, the couple already had a strong connection to Rhode Island. Haibon grew up in Warwick, and graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in history, and he also earned an associate degree at the Community College of Rhode Island. He worked as a general manager at both Providence Oyster Bar and Federal Taphouse before and after his time spent filming for “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise.”
Haibon always wanted to own a restaurant, he explains in an interview with his wife in November, before the shop even opened to the public. “I loved the concept of a coffeehouse that turns into a lounge at night,” he says. “I always said if I was going to open a place it would have a concept like that. And I love the community. I love my home state, so if I were going to open a business, it would be here.”
Haibon and Iaconetti chose the name Audrey’s as a tribute to Ashley’s mom, who is frequently featured on Ashley’s Instagram stories. They also like the ring of the name. “I’d love to name anything after my mom because we’re so close,” says Ianconetti, who is six months pregnant at this point, wearing no makeup and scarfing down a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich. Fast food had been the one thing to sustain her throughout her nausea-inducing pregnancy, she says. “He loved the name because it represents what he wants it to be, a cozy, ‘everyone knows your name’ kind of place,” Iaconetti adds.
They hung a picture of Audrey Hepburn blowing bubble gum on the wall behind the counter in homage to Ashley’s mom near another portrait of their white, fluffy, three-year-old mutt, Lois. Sprinkled throughout the coffee shop is evidence of the couple’s love of movies, including posters and newspaper clippings featuring everything from Superman and Scream to Titanic (Dawson’s first name is a tribute to Jack Dawson in Titanic).
The couple explain that the cafe’s coffee brand has another “Bachelor Nation” connection. They are serving Generous Coffee Co., which was developed by former “Bachelor” Ben Higgins who starred on the twentieth season of “The Bachelor.” Generous Coffee Co. works with a roasting company that is passionate about converting cocaine fields into coffee farms that provide single origin, traceable, craft-roasted coffee while paying farmers more than the local price paid for coffee.
The shop also gives back to charity and offers military and first responders a discount. They plan to give a portion of proceeds to a different charity each month. Haibon used to volunteer at Camp Dotty, a camp run by the Tomorrow Fund for young children undergoing cancer treatment at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, so he wanted to give back through their business.
Not only are Jared and Ashley national celebrities, Audrey’s general manager Erin LaCombe says they are really good people. She met Haibon at Edge Fitness in Warwick where she previously served as a manager, and she also later worked at Main Street Coffee in East Greenwich, where Haibon was a regular. Haibon and Iaconetti recruited LaCombe to manage Audrey’s when it was time to open their own shop.
LaCombe knew it would be popular, but she is still amazed by the crowds that show up. “Knowing Rhode Island, and obviously knowing how ‘Bachelor’ fans operate, I knew this place was going to blow up within a matter of days as soon as we advertised that we were open,” she says. “Sure enough, it did.”
On the day of the December grand opening, Haibon and Iaconetti smiled for the media and fans with their dog while cutting a giant red-bowed ribbon in front of the shop. They were so busy hosting a cavalcade of customers that they ran out of almost every milk product used to produce the drinks. They had to immediately send out reinforcements to buy $80 worth of milk at Stop and Shop to replenish the supply for the afternoon.
Just before Blaise and her friends arrived on opening day, Haibon took photos with a group of women who are deaf, and signed the only expressions he knew like “hello” and “beautiful women,” which made them beam from ear to ear. LaCombe recounts another day, when a husband went into the shop, while his wife, who is a “Bachelor” fan, was too shy to go inside. She stayed in the car with her two young children, but Haibon went out to the car to personally present her and the kids with a signed copy of he and Ashley’s children’s book, Lucy and Clark, which is about their two family dogs and based on Jared and Ashley’s romance.
Like in this situation, LaCombe has a front row seat on “The Bachelor” fandom effect. “I see him take pictures with people every single day that he is here. There’s not one person that he turns down,” she says. “If Jared is here and somebody wants to talk to him or see him, he makes the time no matter what he’s doing, and I think it’s so wonderful because happy people come back.”
Iaconetti has also taken a hands-on approach. She puts together the charcuterie boards and delivers them personally to guests, often with a selfie to follow (she was very present at the shop up until their son was born in late January). Now that Dawson is here, she plans to only host special meet-and-greet events.
The couple welcomed their baby, Dawson Dimitri Brady Haibon, on January 31, a day before Tom Brady officially announced his retirement from the NFL. This coincidence was ironic for Haibon, who is a diehard New England Patriots and Brady fan (even though the quarterback ended his career with the Buccaneers, Haibon holds no bad blood).
“It was in the marriage vows that [Ashley] would move to Rhode Island…and support me when Tom Brady retires,” Haibon says, during an interview that took place in November, long before Brady even announced the news. At that time, he was wearing a sweater with the Patriots team name knit across his chest, but Haibon also owns a gaudy T-shirt that is made up of a collage of photos of Brady’s face.
By late January, the couple briefly thought about changing their son’s name to Brady, but opted for a middle name instead. Hours after the baby was born, Haibon took to Instagram to talk to his own fans who wondered how he was faring after the news of Brady’s retirement. Haibon created an expertly edited and emotional video montage of all his favorite moments watching Brady both on the field and from his couch (along with a clip of those infamous marriage vows).
“Tom Brady officially retires literally the day after my son is born. You gotta be kidding me. I’m sad, I’m trying to put things into perspective obviously,” Haibon says. “Brady has been a very important part of my life for twenty years. He was the starting quarterback when I was twelve years old. Now I have a son. This is the closing chapter of my childhood.”
After only a few months into the year, 2022 has already been a complete transition for both Haibon and Iaconetti. They opened Audrey’s Coffee House and Lounge. They’ve moved into a new home. They just welcomed a new baby. Now Tom Brady has retired, and they’ve documented every step on social media. It’s almost as if they’ve launched a reality spinoff series or a rom-com of their own with a combined 2 million Instagram followers scrolling by to watch their lives unfold.
It’s the Monday Night premiere of the new “The Bachelor” Season 26 in early January, and Bachelor Nation has come out to play at Audrey’s. The day-to-night coffee shop has welcomed local fans to a live watch party, and there’s a special guest in attendance, Jill Chin from Scituate, Rhode Island, who is a contestant vying for love on the new season. She’s schmoozing with fans at the event and getting her first taste of fame.
Haibon and Iaconetti are standing near the shop’s fireplace that has a wooden sign hanging over it that says: “Monday nights we drink wine and watch ‘The Bachelor.’ Tuesday mornings we drink coffee and recap.” Most of the guests are young women with a few older, diehard-from-the-beginning fans crowding around a large portable movie screen. “The Bachelor,” Clayton, is about to meet thirty women exiting limos on the show.
Guests are sitting on couches surrounding the fireplace, some are perched on wooden chairs, and the majority are sitting on the floor or standing while sipping cocktails with one hand and hoisting their phones in the air with the other, recording the couple. Ashley’s sister, who also starred on “Bachelor in Paradise,” is manning the projector as well as an additional TV on the other side of the room. They’re having trouble getting the audio to sync for both TVs, but finally manage to tweak the timing. They kick off the event with a quirky Q-and-A and “would you rather?” game to play in between commercial breaks.