Coffee Chronicles

Cheeky Monkey Coffee is inspired by Maggie Blackham's travels

Cheeky Monkey Story

Not all coffee is created equal, and those who depend on coffee for a daily jolt or a welcome break from the chaos of the day know what makes the best coffee and can tell instantly when a cup doesn’t measure up. MAGGIE BLACKHAM, owner of Cheeky Monkey Coffee in downtown Wilmington, knows coffee and is determined to put a unique twist on this local treasure.

“I’ve worked in a collection of bakeries and coffee shops, both commercial and local,” Blackham says. “I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, so I’m a big advocate for supporting local businesses as well as women-owned businesses. I joke often that it’s in our blood and only a matter of time before I or my siblings will start a new business.”

When the opportunity arose to take over the Cheeky Monkey business, Blackham knew it was the right move.

“Mostly, I wanted to keep another small business from closing after the chaos of last year,” Blackham says. “Located at the front of City Market Shops, it’s a great little spot downtown with such good coffee, I was just excited to breathe some new life into the space from a design perspective. The entire interior has been redecorated with a nomadic/travel vibe. We wanted it to be a memorable spot for both tourists and locals.”

Fans of Cheeky Monkey will see many similarities and those trying it for the first time will appreciate the fresh look and energy Blackham brings to the business.

“A lot of the menu and drink recipes we are keeping from the previous owners since they are so good – like the bananas foster latte and cinnamon French toast latte,” Blackham says. “We roast all our own coffee in-house, so it’s as fresh as you can get. For our house coffee and espresso, we have our own custom blends that you won’t find anywhere else. I have simplified the drink menu a little bit, so we are able to make room for rotating monthly specials.”

One of Blackham’s biggest inspirations is her love of travel, and it is her goal to incorporate that into Cheeky Monkey.

“We are aiming to include more drinks that are inspired from around the world – like our Cheeky Chai Latte which is our own recipe inspired by a traditional masala chai from India,” Blackham says. “I’m also in the process of securing a high-quality source of tea, to offer even more non-coffee options! Most travel inspiration I draw from my own adventures.”

During her teenage years, her family of eight moved onto a small sailboat in Greece and traveled for almost four years.

“We spent years exploring all throughout the Mediterranean before sailing across the Atlantic, cruising up through the Caribbean, before docking in Wilmington almost ten years ago and calling it home,” she says. “I met my husband through this trip; he’s originally from England, so traveling is something we’ll always do and are inspired by!”

Blackham also brings knowledge through experience in other well-known coffee houses.

“One of my past work experiences was with Caribou Coffee, where they do extensive coffee training with all their staff,” says Blackham. “Similar to Starbucks, we had to know all the blends they offer and why they tasted different. Lots of taste testing. But, also lots of education as to why coffee beans from different places offer such different flavor profiles.”

That training she received is something that continues to use now as the owner of Cheeky Monkey, as well as techniques she learned from the previous owner.

Blackham is continuing to learn and explore the world of coffee roasting and is planning new blends to roll out later this year.

“We have so many tourists come through our doors, but we love our local regulars,” Blackham says. “Getting to run my own store has been so much fun.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture