Caffiend to close on Thursday

The 24-hour Merrimon Avenue coffee shop will shut its doors for good following a finale by Hellblinki Sextet. After being closed only occasionally during its two-year lifespan, Caffiend will close this Thursday, June 18.

“If I had any way to avoid this, I would,” says owner Matt Hebb, seen here in happier times. “This economy has just not been very easy. [The shop] needed more money than I have.”

Since its opening, the coffee shop has earned a reputation as a haven for goths, punks and other up-all-nighters, but Hebb says it actually was common ground for all types. After all, it was also home to the conservative club the Asheville Latte Republicans.

“We had a massive community of regulars,” Hebb said.

To see the shop out, a handful of performers including the Hellblinki Sextet and a marionette act will perform Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. The official closing will come at midnight, Hebb said.

Brian Postelle, staff writer


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31 thoughts on “Caffiend to close on Thursday

  1. John Smolkin

    Sorry to see the place close. But the kids who hung out there ruined the ambience it once had.

  2. This is economy is getting harder & more difficult for small local businesses to retain themselves, especially if they cater to an alternative crowd.

  3. travelah

    I hate to see any small business fail. A business has to play to the demographic with money in order to make money.

  4. ?

    Perhaps something can be said for keeping accurate ledger and making wise business decisions…

  5. antipasta

    I wouldn’t call it the “Obama economy” until a year or 2 have passed. How about “the remains of the Bush economy”.

    This town needs more, local, coffee shops.. not less.

  6. jen

    That makes 3 coffee based businesses that have closed recently. I thought coffee was one of those low overhead, high yield businesses. I am guessing that the cost of leasing a space has become insane and that owners have no other choice but to fold. Will there be any ‘alternative crowd’ places left in Asheville?

  7. Ken Hanke

    Will there be any ‘alternative crowd’ places left in Asheville?

    What constitutes an alternative crowd? I think that’s part of the problem — is your alternative crowd my alternative crowd? Do Latte Republicans want to hang out with goth kids and vice versa? Mr. Smolkin already offers evidence that this is probably not a viable mix, since he says that kids “ruined the ambience it once had.” I’m not sure you can create a one-size-fits-all alternative environment.

  8. Matthew Hebb

    I tried to do what I could to make an environment that integrated everyone that could maintain respect and decorum. Look, I don’t expect everyone to love what my place was, and I certainly made my mistakes, but the place was something special for many people (myself included). I am heartbroken to see it go for reasons outside of being the owner. I’d like to think of Asheville as being this place where Latte Republicans and Latte Liberals, gaming freaks and goth kids, lawyers and factory workers, young and old, rich and poor can all come together and hang out in a weird little oasis. I might just be an idealist, and my business closing is probably a testament to that to an extent. There were economic factors, and other factors as well but I can say this I am truly appreciative of what everyone in this community HAS given me and what that place DID accomplish. I have many times said that this store was as much (if not more so) the people that came there’s place rather than mine. This is the end of one great place but if I know my customers (and the friends I have made through them) the community will live on. To say I am saddened by this is an understatement, but it is that community that gives me a feeling that I did something right.

  9. Chad Nesbitt

    Matt Hebb is one of the smartest young guys I know. I feel certain we have not seen the last of Hebb. This is the kind of guy that’s not afraid to put it on the line.

    His coffee shop was not a failure.
    It was a learning experience.
    People like Matt always succeed.

  10. John

    Chad makes a good point about the learning experience. I’ve been self employed/an employer and I can tell you that paying expenses/payroll and making the decisions necessary to run run the business is a crash course in learning. I can also say that after the show is over, the clarity of being away from it and evaluating your decisions and choices is another. Both make you a much better owner the second time around.

    Good luck Matthew.

  11. hauntedheadnc

    I liked the place, but I can’t say that I’m surprised at this.

    What bothers me is that when a business like this fails, it is never, ever, ever the fault of the business owner or the people who didn’t spend enough money there to keep it open.

    It’s always the city’s fault. Remember that and it will serve you well. This is especially true if the business in question caters to the “alternative crowd,” such as this coffee shop or the book exhange, or whatever it was, where paying for anything was optional.

    It is NOT the fault of the customers who never spent anything but time at the business. It is the city’s fault for not being ready for such a business or not being cool enough to support it.

    Are we all clear on that?

  12. Perhaps something can be said for keeping accurate ledger and making wise business decisions…

    Ever owned a business?

    This is economy is getting harder & more difficult for small local businesses to retain themselves, especially if they cater to an alternative crowd.

    To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised on many small businesses are hanging in there through all this. I expected many more places to be closed.

    Good luck with your next endeavor Matt!

  13. John Smolkin

    So hauntedhead, “It is NOT the fault of the customers who never spent anything but time at the business. It is the city’s fault for not being ready for such a business or not being cool enough to support it. Are we all clear on that?” does this mean you think Asheville should’ve used taxpayer money to keep a small business from failing? Ala Obama’s “stimulants”? LOL, and you say you are local. But you have a definitely NE yankee way of thinking. Funny, eh?

  14. travelah

    It is Bush’s fault … wake up Asheville. Where is the TARP money for Java?!?

  15. hauntedheadnc

    Smolkin, really, don’t you know humor when you read it? I was KIDDING. Don’t be so serious.

  16. hauntedheadnc

    Why so serious, John Smolkin?

    (Jack Nicholson made a better joker, btw)

  17. Mysterylogger

    Its just another coffee shop its not like it was a beacon of the universe.

    How many coffee shops does one town need, really?

  18. Matt Howard

    Actually sometimes it is the city not being cool. This town has some strict codes, that are not equally enforced by any means.

  19. Rob Close

    i’m just curious as to what actually went wrong?

    what mistakes did you make, matt? roughly?

    too much rent? too high employee pay? wrong pricing structure? i don’t wanna guess…

  20. How many coffee shops does one town need, really?

    There really wasn’t too many until Starbucks came into town. Should we let them take over?

  21. John A Smolkin

    Close: “i’m just curious as to what actually went wrong?”

    My take, as someone who occasionally patronized the place, was Matt’s inability to keep the loafing sidewalk cowboys away from the front door and front sidewalk. You go, park, but had kids sitting on the curb smoking and clogging up the walk way. Skate boarding in the parking lot. When this problem first surfaced, Matt said he was going to fix it. Well, that didn’t happen. so he ended upwith just kids,who didn’t spend much money. A pity.

  22. Matthew Hebb

    As far as what went wrong…I will keep it simple on a public forum. Many things, of course the economy, but also some theft among other factors. Customers that used to spend three or four dollars could only afford to spend one now. There were so many things to say as to the whys here, I am at fault too, I don’t deny that I made mistakes. I was a new business owner and I will take many lessons from this. However, with all due respect I will not discuss my overhead etc. on here. I am not terribly hard to get a hold of for discussion off line so feel welcome to inquire to me personally and, if appropriate, I would be happy to let my lessons be shared with others. Thank you to all who have had kind words on here, I, and those behind Caffiend aside from myself truly appreciate the support during this time of transition.

  23. Jared Rutledge

    i never had a cup of coffee at Caffiend (was out of the country for 07 and 08) but as a potential Asheville coffee shop owner and West Asheville native this saddens me. I hate to see indie shops go out of business.

    one thing i have noticed (and i cannot at all say whether this was the case with you, Mr. Hebb) is that in the past, Asheville coffee shops have been run by businessmen or women instead of baristi. this resulted in bad management decisions, high overhead or variable costs, and low quality. countless shops thought it was ok to re-steam milk, add syrups of every flavor and sugar content to espresso, and purchase inferior whole bean coffee. when you are focused on making world class espresso in a warm and clean environment, i think that can, to some extent, transcend the economic climate.

    Asheville needs more coffeehouses – here’s hoping the banks trust me enough to give all of you the espresso you deserve.

  24. Mysterylogger

    Blah Starbucks, but Ive yet to have a cup of coffee anywhere in the overglorified Coffee houses in Asheville that was decent.

    Its just a cup of coffee . . . Its cheaper to make it at home and take it with you.

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