Here’s an opinion piece submitted by Katie Baird, co-owner of Hi-Fi Cafe with Aaron Gibbs. Hi-Fi is located in the building that houses the Downtown Market on South French Broad Avenue. The building was recently purchased by Troy and Carlie Ball, owners of Troy & Sons Distilling:
Asheville is too small a community for horrible business practices to go unreported. We want to be explicit about how Charlie Ball of Troy & Sons and Troy Hopey of Hopey & Co. (formerly Amazing Savings) have chosen to advance their businesses at the expense of others. The worst part of the whole situation is Ball’s dishonesty: he refused to be up front with us as soon as he decided to expand Hopey & Co., allow them to introduce their own cafe to the Downtown Market building, and evict us. Although he told other tenants this was his plan months before, he never spoke to us directly and completely blindsided us. We were promised renovations, so that’s what we expected and acted upon with equipment purchases. We have always reinvested our funds back into our business, so we don’t have thousands of dollars in the bank to relocate. Had we been given notice, even three months ago, we could have made different choices and saved every penny. Hopey showed his true colors by proposing to move into our space and start his own cafe, so after three successful years we’re being pushed out to make way for his expansion. We are the “little fish” in this situation, and feel the urgent need to blow the whistle on unethical business decisions – especially by people who say they care about local and small businesses.
One ray of hope shines into the darkness of this situation: a local entrepreneur has approached us with the opportunity to help finance Hi-Fi’s relocation. Singlehandedly, he has revived our tenacity, heartened our souls to pick up the pieces, and given us the chance to keep our business alive. We are beside ourself with gratitude, and diligently working on a plan to move forward. We will keep our Facebook page updated and launch a Kickstarter campaign as soon as possible to generate the necessary finances. The overwhelming support of the friends and family we’ve created through our business speaks volumes for the community and our place in it. Please, Asheville, keep proving that this city is still about people – not money!
I am so sorry this happened to Hi-Fi!! Simply an unconscionable move on Hopey’s part. As for the remarks regarding “public airing of grievances”, I am grateful they came forward to reveal the selfishness of the Hopey and Company camp. I work hard for my money, and I prefer to spend it in my community with others who are community minded. Thank you for the information, Hi-Fi. I now know where NOT to shop!! Best of luck moving forward. 🙂
Just wanted to add that I fully support Hi-fi in making this public information. It is not sour grapes so much as not allowing corruption to be hidden. Full disclosure and full transparency are to be welcomed. Full support here.
Thank you for the support and understanding what it is we are doing!!
Nobody looks great coming out of this, though the Hi-Fi team looks least worst. I like the cafe a lot, but in hindsight Katie and Aaron were a little naive to invest in a location whose future has always been pretty uncertain; Hopey & Co have thrown away a lot of the goodwill that they built up, especially after the trademark nonsense over ‘Amazing Savings’; the Balls look incompetent at best, underhand at worst.
The margins on a closeout grocery are always going to be pretty slender, but it’s not like Hopey competes with FBFC or TJ or HT. It’s a dented-can and near-expired yogurt store for people with tight budgets and a willingness to play the grocery lottery.
I agree, this public “airing of grievances” is not very attractive.
There is always some level of secrecy between landlords and tenants when property is changing hands. I’m sure there was some dishonesty, but the real lesson for small business owners is to read your leases and know what type of risk you are exposed to.
It would be great if we could all just trust everyone and do deals with handshakes, but that is not realistic… even in a town this size.
The explanation, straight from Charlie Ball, is that Hopey came to him and said ” we will die if we don’t expand” because of the other recent stores (Harris teeter and Trader Joes) opening in close proximity. I (Aaron Gibbs) find that killing us (one little owener operated cafe) is OK but ONE of his multiple stores “possibly” struggling a bit is completely out of the question. Remember though, they have strong Christian values so it must be the right thing to do!
This is really sad. Makes me not want to support Hopey & Co. that’s for sure. Jason, have you asked them for an explanation? Thanks!
I know people who have worked with Troy & Sons, and this type of shady business is right in line with what they say they’ve witnessed.
Check out Woodfin. Cheap rents and way under served area.