At their first meeting in three months, Charlie Ball, the new owner of the building at 45 S. French Broad Ave., delivered surprising and difficult news to business partners Aaron Gibbs and Katie Baird. Specifically, he does not see how Hi-Fi Cafe fits into plans for the building, and Hi-Fi Cafe has 3 to 5 months to vacate the premises. Gibbs and Baird, who celebrated 3 years of successfully owning and operating their small cafe in January, were shocked by his announcement. Up until December, all communication had been directly related to the renovations and improvements Ball would create in the space housing the little restaurant. In the lease proposal signed by all parties, specific improvements, which Gibbs and Baird would cover over time in rental payments, were laid out.
In the new year, the owners of the small cafe began to suspect something had changed when other tenants in the building began to share details of new blueprints with Hopey and Co. occupying the space currently held by Hi-Fi Cafe. “We knew nothing was set in stone, and figured that Charlie would tell us directly if he decided to move us to another spot in the building. So we waited.” (Baird) After the official sale of the building last Wednesday, Gibbs and Baird anticipated finally getting word straight from the new landlord. “We just weren’t expecting this. At all. It was the worst possible scenario.” (Gibbs)
Gibbs and Baird, who lack the funding to relocate Hi-Fi Cafe, view this as a deadly blow to their business and the loss of three years of blood, sweat, and tears. “We’ve put everything back into our business. Our nest egg is being ripped away and stolen from us, and we had no say in it. There was no negotiation with us to figure out a way for Hi-Fi to continue.” (Gibbs)
Gibbs and Baird, who closed shop today to process the news, seek legal council, and create a game plan, hope to continue operating normal business hours. A definitive date by which they need to be out of the building was not determined in the Tuesday meeting, and the details of the next few months still need to be discussed. As for plans to relocate, Gibbs and Baird are clear that once the doors close at their current location, they will not reopen.
“This has really been a huge blow. We’ve fought tooth and nail to create a name for ourselves and to bring something real and amazing to the Asheville food scene. We know we’ve accomplished that; our regulars and even new folks get our heart and taste the difference.” (Baird) While they hate to leave their regulars and wish Hi-Fi could continue, the cafe owners see it as the push they needed to begin again in a new place. Most likely, the couple will move out of the area in the summer. Gibbs and Baird, who have a loyal and enthusiastic local following, say they will share plans as they develop. Their Facebook page offers regular updates.
UPDATE 9:10 pm March 13: The manager of the Downtown Market, the business that oversees some 85 to 100 vendors inside the South French Broad Avenue building, said Thursday that he’s negotiated a lease for his business to remain in operation there. He suggested I get in touch with the other business in the building – a discount grocery and a coffee shop, and check on them. I’m in the process of doing that.
ORIGINAL POST March 13, 10:49 am: The building housing the Downtown Market at 45 S. French Broad Avenue, as well as an adjacent vacant lot, have sold for $720,000 to the Ball family aka Troy and Charlie Ball, the owners of Troy and Sons Distilling, Asheville’s legal moonshine makers.
The Downtown Market is home to several small businesses, as well as vendors of antiques, crafts and thrift clothing. A couple of years ago, the building owner went through foreclosure and threatened to kick out the businesses. But the Downtown Market survived the foreclosure transition and has remained open.
At the time, Troy and Sons was rumored to be considering buying the building for an expansion of their distilling business, though nothing happened.
The sale obviously raises a ton of questions that I’ll be trying to answer: what will happen to the Downtown Market? What do the new owners have planned for the building?
CORRECTION: Corrected sale price. Original number was the tax value of the property.
I do hope Hi-Fi can resurface elsewhere. They have provided a wonderful space for the neighborhood, but most important, it is the upbeat and positive vibe that I have always received whenever I stop in. Katie and Aaron provide the bright sunshine inside of the Market.
I’m so sorry Aaron and Katie! This is terrible news. Not only do you guys have awesome coffee, and some of the best pizza in town, but you two are such a great part of this neighborhood!!! I hope that there is some way this can be worked out, or that you are able to relocate in the RAD or somewhere else close by.
I’d much rather see Hopeless & Co. gone than Hifi! Are they gonna fill that extra space with stale bread and rotten produce? Booo!
Thanks Stu, you know we love you too! We were looking forward to that eventual write up from you! From what we were told by Charlie Ball, Hopey wants our space so they can open their own CAFE! Shows just how much they care about their neighbours and supposed Christian Values. Do unto others and respect thy neighbour….rrriiiiggghhhhtttt.
This is terrible news. HiFi has some of the best (and most reasonably priced) food in town. Good job “local friends” Troy & Sons… taking out a true homegrown local business.
Thank you so much for the support!
Troy and Sons has done a despicable thing. How can you take away someone else’s business without warning? I wonder why Hopey and Company had to expand their space at the expense of another business. I personally will not go back to the downtown market or Hopey and Company. I plan to support Hifi Cafe until they have to close their doors.
Thank you so much for the support but please continue to support The Downtown Market vendors area. They did nothing wrong and we are still close with them.
The main reason I came to that area was Hi-Fi. My intention is not to protest the Downtown Market.
3-5 months notice is “without warning”?
It might not be “without warning” but its not much, especially considering we were spending money for equipment to improve our area that we were told was going to stay ours and in fact get a facelift.
Just to be clear…The Downtown Market is the
85+ multi-vendor antique, vintage store inside the building. We have no association with Hopey and Co. We are good friends with Aaron and Katie of Hi-fi and will continue to be. We have supported each other’s businesses for the last three years and will continue to be supportive of each other. We know the building is thought of as The Downtown Market…but it’s really just us. We have a lot of people riding with us, who’s livelihoods depend on their selling things in our market. We hope our community will continue to support us as well as Hi-fi Cafe.
This will certainly change the dynamic of that block and keep expanding downtown further west and filling the South Slope. If a hotel goes on the old Merita site, the Patton gateway will look much more welcoming.
Speaking for the Downtown Market, 10,000 ft.² of local vendors of antiques, vintage and up-cycled clothing, furniture and funky home decor, our part of the building will remain open as always through changes in ownership. We are more than excited about the new owners and look forward to serving the Asheville population in the ways that we have become known for these last three years. The planned upgrades to the interior and exterior will only go to serve the DTM’s clientele more successfully.
As previously, we are only changing for the better given our new landlords. Those devotees of the market will continue to find goods that are only available at higher prices to tourists elsewhere in town. We celebrate Buy Locally and we provide a comfortable atmosphere to do so.
I wonder if the ceiling in that building is high enough to fit Troy & Sons’ giant brass distiller? If not, they’re not going to be able to move the whole business in there . . .
Does AVL have any rules regarding the proximity of a business that produces alcohol to schools or churches…
Dang! Downtown Market is the best, funkiest thrift store in town. I hope they at least keep Hopey & Co and Hi-Fi Cafe. Hi-Fi is the best cheap lunch in downtown Asheville, IMHO. and the beer selection at Hopey & Co is just fantastic.. Pretty much all the local brews to go.
It occurred to me that Troy & Sons might have to move somewhere when Highland Brewing announced a major expansion.