i want to keep my commitment in 2017 to hospitality, and so much of that for me is storytelling. what is Summit doing, and why? i ask for 100% transparency from our team here, good and bad, and i want to provide that same commitment to y’all.
why asheville? why now? customers have been asking me those questions for weeks, and to be honest, i had to answer those questions myself before we decided to expand beyond our current retail bubble of Lake Norman.
i’m undergoing a constant evaluation to make Summit better. as an entrepreneur, it’s my favorite challenge: how do you take something good, something that’s working, something that’s making money, and find ways to improve.
we’ve segmented the company into two distinct businesses: the roasting/wholesale operation, and our two davidson cafes. at the core, for any retail expansion to make sense, it had to fit into both of these businesses. over the past 12 months, we’ve looked at more than ten retail opportunities. and while none of those made sense for us, the exercise allowed us to focus more intently on what would make sense for us.
fast forward to january of this year, and in planning our trip to Knoxville for the U.S. Coffee Championships, i reached out to a developer in Asheville who had shown us a couple spaces in 2016. we were driving through the city, so the least we could do is make a 30-minute detour and continue our research project.
we checked out three spaces in Asheville, and the first two had me focused more on the drive to Knoxville than anything else. so as we entered the third, and final, space for lease, i was already eyes-deep in my cell phone and without expectations.
look at this space, though, on our page for The River. history, 130 years of it, spills out of the walls. the stories that these 19th century beams could tell. the original concrete floor, tough and durable and flawed and beautiful. the building, all 1600 feet of it along the French Broad River in Asheville’s River Arts District, feels like Summit.
our business is rooted in another 19th century building, albeit a few years younger, in downtown Davidson. there’s a certain character that this flagship cafe space has lent our brand over 19 years, and so picking a space because of how it feels actually doesn’t seem as crazy to me as it should.
that day in January, the 19th to be precise, we drove to Asheville with no real thoughts on opening another retail cafe. in fact, our current business model and structure that we’ve spent the past year refining is built on a core of two cafes and a roasting operation, in Davidson and Cornelius. that’s it.
but that day in January, the 19th, we drove away from Asheville with only thoughts about opening another retail cafe. this vacant former bathhouse at what was the world’s largest leather tannery needed Summit, and Summit needed this space.
i don’t do things slowly. another big challenge of mine as an entrepreneur has been to allow appropriate deliberation in decision making. it’s a constant exercise in hitting the gas, feeling comfortable, and still pumping the brakes from time-to-time. this Asheville project is no different. i needed this space, for both our cafe business and for our roasting business. as we expand to be a regional and, ultimately, national coffee company, our brand needs exposure.
while we work to round up wholesale accounts, places with employees not on our payroll that are serving our roasted beans, we have been super intentional about strengthening and ballooning our brand. and opening a cafe in Asheville is the biggest play we’ve made at that. we want to share the Summit story with tens of thousands of new people, of friends we’ve yet to make and regular customers we’ve yet to serve.
opening a new cafe will afford us another opportunity to audit our current business. what do we want to sell? how do we want the space to feel? there’s 19 years of experience that we will draw from to make these decisions for Asheville, but at the same time we fully anticipate taking the experience of this new startup and making improvements to our Davidson stores.
we have a fun vision for the space — 360-degree bar? — that we can’t wait to share. until next time.