⊕ The coffee shop that couldn’t

Masters BrewWHITE COUNTY – When one door closes, another door opens – or at least that’s how the saying goes. But for one Sparta-based business, it’s been a lot more complicated than that.

After shutting its doors in February, The Masters’ Brew, a coffee house and bakery, reopened weeks later with renewed vigor – only to shut down again. It was supposed to be a second-chance success story, but another stroke of bad luck means the coffee maker is calling it quits for good.

Owner Larry Masters says a recent water line break spilled 300,000 galloons of water into their storefront on Bockman Way before being discovered. It took two weeks to repair, he said, making the decision to close a more permanent one this time.

Masters Brew first open in November 2012 in Sparta Crossings, a North Spring Street shopping center once anchored by Food Lion. Masters, a software developer – and self-proclaimed coffee fanatic – wanted the business to serve more than just a mean cup of Joe. From the beginning, profits were to be set aside for area ministries, in particular, those that helped people with drug addictions. In 2014, Masters’ Brew moved to the old Krystal’s building, at 541 Bockman Way. But higher traffic counts didn’t translate to sales.

Masters was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red. And besides occasionally donating food to local causes, there was nothing to give back monetarily. A Feb. 28 Facebook posting announced the closure to the world, “Goodbye, Sparta. We’ll miss you.” But just 10 days later, there was news about a grand reopening.

The plan was to focus entirely on the company’s wholesale accounts instead, distributing coffee, ice cream and donuts to different retail locations throughout the UC. To make that work, they’d move back to their old locale – which offered more space. The move, however, would never happen. The original Masters’ Brew building had suffered some serious water damage since it was vacated. Three weeks passed. Wholesale clients were lost.

“That forced us to rethink how we were going to approach all of this,” Masters told the UCBJ in April. “I had no intention of reopening to the public. But we had nowhere to go, and at this location, it costs more, so in order to (sustain) that, we might as well stay open.”

And, at least initially, he was making that work. Wholesale accounts were being restored. He cut expenses by drastically paring down the menu, limiting the hours of operation, and, although a difficult decision, cutting staff to bare minimum.

The coffee shop was just hitting the sweet spot, he said, when the water leak struck. And with it, all momentum was lost.

“I would thank everyone in the community that supported our mission while we were open,” Masters said.

Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at liz@ucbjournal.com

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