Two months after receiving news that they had lost their lease at the Downtown Market building, Hi-Fi Café co-owners Aaron Gibbs and Katie Baird have decided to permanently close their small eatery this summer. Despite previous plans to relocate, the two have decided to call it quits in Asheville.
Gibbs and Baird say they learned in March that the new owners of the building at 45 S. French Broad Ave. — Troy and Charlie Ball of Troy and Sons Distillery — would not be renewing Hi-Fi’s lease, due to redevelopment plans for the site.
“After the turn of events, we honestly don’t have the heart to risk $30,000 in loans and spend another two to three years rebuilding. We just don’t want it badly enough,” says Gibbs.
The couple estimates that with Hi-Fi’s closure, they stand to lose $80,000-$100,000. But Gibbs is philosophical about the loss. “It’s just money. We can always make more,” he says.
According to Baird, the pair initially viewed the loss of location as a sign to leave Asheville, but a groundswell of community support encouraged them to try relocating. They launched a crowdfunding campaign to procure money for the move, and began investigating possible sites for a new café.
However, when fundraising efforts stalled, the business partners reconsidered. They realized, says Baird, that even with a loyal customer base, there was no guarantee relocation would be successful, considering the fierce competition in Asheville restaurant industry.
“Asheville’s food culture is just plain fickle, and we’re tired of fighting against that,” Baird says. “While it breaks our hearts to close our successful business due to circumstances beyond our control, it’s time to let go and move on.”
For the time being, the couple plans to move to Efland, N.C., near Durham, where Baird’s mother owns 10 acres. They hope to spend their time there working on gardening and sustainability projects. “I have family there, and it’ll be a perfect place to ground and revisit what we want and where we want to be,” says Baird. “We’ve been wanting to get on the other side of the food business, and this will be a great opportunity to try out some different ideas,” says Gibbs.
“We are so grateful for an amazing three and a half years,” says Baird. “We’ve learned so much, and created deep friendships. I am proud to have built a business where ‘I love you’ is a phrase frequently exchanged across the counter, where hugs often come before food and coffee orders, and where we have truly built community around the quality and consistency of what we do.”
If you want to get your fill of Hi-Fi’s much-lauded pizza and paninis, time is of the essence. Gibbs and Baird plan to maintain their current hours only through the end of July.
Hi-Fi Café is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday – Friday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays. hificafeavl.com