Hi-Fi Cafe in Asheville set to close in 3 weeks; owners ask for patronage before moving on


Katie Baird and Aaron Gibbs, of Hi-Fi Café, have  announced that their little restaurant will be closing for good in August. That came after the building their cafe is situated in on South French Broad Avenue sold to the owners of Troy and Sons Distillers.

Please come out and support Katie and Aaron before they leave. They’re awesome people and they make some damn good pizza. Here’s an update from Baird and Gibbs:

Two months ago, the foreclosed property housing Hi-Fe Café changed hands from First Bank to Charlie and Troy Ball, of Troy and Sons Distillers. Although initial plans for revitalizing the building included the eatery, the Balls decided against extending a lease to the small business owners. Losing a location can be a fatal blow for any business; location directly correlates with cash flow and business value. After carving out their niche amid various challenges, the pair can’t stomach starting over.

Initially, Gibbs and Baird viewed the loss of location as a sign to leave Asheville and begin their travels, albeit nearly empty-handed after more than three years’ investment into their business. Almost immediately, the couple was surrounded by community support, and formed plans to relocate. Fund-raising efforts, however, fizzled before getting far off the ground.

Baird explains, “as is often the case in Asheville, support was mostly verbal, and didn’t translate into money like we needed it to.” Far from their goal amount, Gibbs and Baird realized that allocating the finances to move their café would be much more difficult than anticipated, and began to ask themselves hard questions. Upon reflection, the business partners found that their customers formed the main reason to relocate.

“We’ve built a locals’ spot, and really wanted to see it continue for them. I also couldn’t imagine losing what we’ve built and fought for all these years. But playing not to lose, and for others, isn’t how we want to play. When we’re honest with ourselves, rebuilding just isn’t what we want,” says Baird.

In an ever-burgeoning food town, relocating Hi-Fi Cafe, even with its loyal following, is risky business. There are no guarantees in the restaurant industry, and with new establishments opening regularly in a small city already home to more than 600 restaurants, competition is fierce. Factoring in the tide of rising rental rates, recent changes in regulations, and necessary equipment upgrades, and the total price tag increased significantly for the small business owners.

“If this was still our dream, we’d make it happen. But we’re both tired of fighting against this town’s saturated market,” says Gibbs, who’s been cooking professionally for 13 years. He continues, “it would take years for us to build our business back up and become debt-free again, and we’re both ready for something new.” Baird adds, “as hard as it is to close our successful business in response to the hand we were dealt, the biggest lesson is letting go and creating peace amid the turmoil.”

The closure comes on the heels of national publicity for the tiny café. Chelsea Batten, an independent writer, stumbled upon Hi-Fi Cafe in November and wrote about her experience in her travel blog, The Connoisseurs. Batten stayed in touch with Gibbs and Baird, and, upon receiving the opportunity to write for a new food magazine, suggested Hi-Fi be part of the inaugural issue highlighting “remarkable” recipes, people, and places. In April, Let’s Gather, a national publication, featured small eatery and paid special attention to Gibb’s chai recipe. The accolades reflect what the couple say their customers express regularly.

“We know what we’ve created is special, and that our people get what we’re about,” says Gibbs. “No one can take that away from us,” Baird adds.

The pair plans to maintain their current hours through the end of July and encourages frequent visits; “get your fill while you can, and help us build up our bank account as much as possible!” quips Baird. In August, the couple will move to Efland, N.C., to be near Baird’s family.

“My mom, my brother Matt, and my nephew Jaxon live on the old homestead, and we all want to work together and get the farm going again,” says Baird. “We’re excited to get our hands in the dirt and work on different projects we just haven’t had the time or opportunity to do,” adds Gibbs.

Hi-Fi Café is open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.


luther blissett July 1, 2014 - 1:25 am

Although the Hi-Fi people’s press releases read like freshman J-school articles, I genuinely wish them the best, and I’ll be giving them some custom before they shut up shop.

This isn’t a standard “restaurant opens, restaurant closes” story: after a few short-lived attempts to add food to the DTM — remember Pho Fusion? — they stuck around and established themselves, worked within the constraints of their space, and still offer the best ultra-cheap lunch downtown. You can argue that the Troys’ purchase has secured the future of the building, but it was Hi-Fi that showed you could run a cafe there. We’ll be able to judge their work against the expanded Hopey & Co soon enough.

Hi-Fi Cafe July 4, 2014 - 11:40 pm

Thanks for realizing what we did! Its greatly appreciated 🙂

Matt June 28, 2014 - 7:37 pm

“Beard explains, ‘As is often the case in Asheville support was mostly verbal, and didn’t translate into money’ “.

I’ll be sure to drop by and try out that Chai, but other than that, all I have is some lousy Asheville empathy and solidarity. 😉

indie June 28, 2014 - 6:07 pm

Who would want to offer $ “support”?

Tony K June 28, 2014 - 12:45 am

Breaking News: Another restaurant in Asheville closes !

Can we keep a running score on the number that open and close. Everyone thinks they are a restauranteur when they move here.

Asheville opens and closes more restaurants than anywhere I’ve ever seen.

And if you own one and have tattoos, guess what I’m not going to eat there. Sorry if that’s politically incorrect, but I have my rules, like you do with no shoes, no service. You have tattoos, no tacos for me.

Buncombe County should improve it’s health inspection for both restaurant employees, and the restaurants themselves. Back to keeping score, it could be like the W/L column in the baseball standings.

That would give the Citizen Times some original content for it’s USA Today clone of a newspaper,
that’s not run from here,no…it’s in Greenville.

Or gee, since Ashvegas seems to think it’s the center the Asheville restaurant scene, maybe you should keep the tally of opening & closes.

It’s truly pathetic to see what some people call food in this town anymore. Asheville is much less the hip place that people that just moved here, or visit on the weekends think it is.

They will find out soon enough, that it’s just another stop on the pothole filled interstate that gets no love from the state, because we’re way too from from Raleigh. Can we pave Patton Ave. from the bridge exit leading into Hipster-ville ? That may leave a better first impression before checking into a room at the old Downtown Motor Lodge with the wet carpet floors in the room you just rented, because they had a leak the night before. Then you can go eat somewhere in your wet socks and shoes.

Here’s audio of a radio announcer from Charlotte visiting Asheville just a couple of weekends ago.

Stop the presses, I just got a call, another restaurant is closing, but a new one is opening in it’s place. No shirts, shoes or tops required.
Woo-hoo it’s so hip, it’s so cool !

Tony K

Sean June 30, 2014 - 11:38 pm

People are going to give you hell for this, but I’m with you for the most part. I’ve grown ever so weary of the near-constant mutual masturbation about food (and other *insert your own “green”, “sustainable”, “locally-sourced” synonym here*).

Keep fighting the good fight, Tony.

Matt July 1, 2014 - 12:11 am

Hey guys, I think your table at Golden Corral is ready…

boatrocker July 2, 2014 - 3:55 pm

I concur with Sean- it’s funny in a creepy way is when folks that live here point out the obvious fact that Asheville is in love with itself over our restaurants and then are referred to as killjoys/trolls/Debbie downer types.

Methinks they (posts that denigrate pointing out the obvious high turnover rate of restaurants here) doth protest too much.

Thomas Malthus had that crazy idea way back in the Pre-Internets days about a carrying capacity. It seems his ideas still apply.

If local journalism here suddenly stopped writing stories about restaurants and famous people sightings and instead followed real stories about coal ash spills, crappy water quality at CTS sites and corruption in Raleigh and gave the same amount of press to them, somehow I have a feeling we’d scare away all those almighty tourist dollars we brown nose so hard to acquire.

luther blissett July 1, 2014 - 1:12 am

You have tattoos, no tacos for me.

I’m guessing you don’t pay much attention to the people working in most restaurant kitchens, Mr Magoo. But do please state that preference every time you dine out so that the kitchen staff can add something special to your meal.

Now go and tell some kids to get off your lawn.

Nate July 1, 2014 - 7:29 pm

I’m not sure why it gets you so riled up exactly, but the biggest industry in this town right now is tourism, and a fundamental part of that tourist trade is the local food and restaurant culture. That’s the shit that gets written up in all the travel magazines and websites, and the kind of thing that convinces people to come here rather than some other beautiful place in the mountains. The food business as a whole, including restaurants, is huge in this area, and there are probably hundreds of Ashvegas readers who work in that sector.

It’s also perfect fodder for a local blog, with openings and closings and changes to cover, and reviews to be written, and “happenings” like the LaB pig blood fiasco to write about. The type of post you’re recommending, that keeps score on all the restaurants that have opened and all the ones that have closed in a given period, has actually appeared frequently in the past on this very site, and offers a vivid picture of just how much churn there is in this shaky sector of the economy.

TL;DR – Don’t come to a local blog built on coverage of the local hospitality biz and bitch about the fact that they’re covering the local hospitality biz. And get over your prejudice against people with tattoos . . . don’t you realize it’s the ones with the piercings that we need to worry about?

boatrocker July 2, 2014 - 4:05 pm

While I agree with most of your points and think it would be enlightening in a scientific method sort of way to keep a tally of restaurant openings and closings, I’d be curious as to your reasoning about tattoos and dining out.

Is it a health/hygiene issue, or just a matter of taste? I’m ink free and think most ink I see around here is pretty tacky, but still wonder why that would factor in to one’s choice of dining haunts- especially since it would be hard to find a single restaurant in town where are at least one employee doesn’t sport some awful ‘tribal’ design they got in the 90’s.

Hi-Fi Cafe July 4, 2014 - 11:39 pm

Um, we were not closing because of not being successful restauranteurs mister Tony K. Had you taken the time to actually use the two gelatinous orbs between your nose you would have noticed we are being kicked out of our building. This is not because we couldn’t pay rent/were not a viable business, but so that Hopey & Co. (what was Amazing Savings) could expand and have their own cafe (after we proved it worked) without us in the same building as competition (because no one would go to theirs with us still in existence). It pays to read and gather information before you go making a statement, though I do agree its humorous how often restaurants open and close in this town. Its another reason we are not staying.

Harry June 27, 2014 - 5:12 pm

Damn Ashevillians only offered well wishes and verbal support, but wouldn’t cough up the cash when they really needed it. Cheap ass town.

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