Recruiting coffeehouse to neighborhood
June 6, 2012 1:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I recruit a coffeeshop or small restaurant for my gentrifying neighborhood?

We (the neighborhood association) would like to have a few public gathering places in our largely residential, rapidly improving area near downtown Nashville. I've gone to small independent coffeeshops or markets to ask them to consider us, but none feel they are in a position to expand. Is there a sort of culinary craigslist? (too much margin for error in the real craigslist). We don't really want a franchise like Panera or Starbucks.
posted by mmiddle to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you're recruiting you want to be doing something like offering incentives on rent. Once you do that, and publicise it, you'll get your indie barista startups coming to you.

If you aren't in a position to do that, then at least do some market research - to show business viability and publicise that.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:18 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Did you think about raising money to help fund their move? Maybe pool together a group of investors and approach a shop with a business deal. Or maybe the investors can start their own franchise.
posted by JJ86 at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2012

Hi fellow TNean! Is it possible that there's a person in your community who has always had a life-long dream to start some kind of business like this? Could you help them begin to pitch the ideas to local business lenders, or give them a kick-start through microfinance? I feel like your community is more likely to give long-term, sustained support through helping one of their own create such a space, rather than inviting in an outsider who may not 'jive' with the local vibe.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:19 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that instead of going directly to restaurant or businesses, you need to appeal to a real estate developer who knows how to make these things happen. For instance, in East Nashville, Dan Heller has spearheaded a lot of the activity in Inglewood. He's responsible for Riverside Village, and is currently working on the conversion of the Fluffo Mattress Factory into a brew pub hub in East End. If you can get someone like that interested in your particular neighborhood, they can work with landlords of existing spaces to "curate" the kinds of businesses you would like to move into the neighborhood. It's even better if you are one of those landlords.
posted by kimdog at 1:35 PM on June 6, 2012

Have you spoken to your local government arm? Nothing brings in business like tax breaks.
posted by mkultra at 1:35 PM on June 6, 2012

Talk to your city councilmember. I used to work for one and we actually got a coffee shop in a neighborhood because the community association really, really wanted one. So we hand held someone through the approval and licensing process.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:37 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you considered a free rent competition? Here are several examples of towns and neighborhoods developing new business this way:

- Mill Avenue's Retail Competition
- Burlington's The Next Great Place
- Ithaca's Race for the Space

Your association would assemble a package of prizes, including things like free rent for a year, free help with business plans, free advertising, etc. Then you'd solicit proposals for the kinds of businesses you want, and give the winning business the prize. It's a way to attract entrepreneurs from your own community and give them the help (financial and otherwise) they need to get started.
posted by ourobouros at 1:38 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check with your city's economic development department to see if you're in any kind of neighborhood improvement zone or CDBG area that could get the business some financial incentives. Here are some examples that are local to me: LISC, Main Street Milwaukee
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could always start your own. A community association in the neighbourhood where I live actually runs a couple of businesses, including a popular coffee shop.

It really has helped transform the neighbourhood into a community.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:43 PM on June 6, 2012

Maybe ask Crema or Mystic coffee if they'd be interested in an outpost in your neighborhood.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2012

One thing you could do would be to draw up some demographic info on the neighborhood: how many people live in your zip code, avg income, lifestyle (kids? dogs? etc) and so on. That can help make your business case with some hard facts. If someone's writing a loan app it'll also help them (the prospective business owner) round out their story.

Talk to the SBA -- they may be aware of someone looking for a location.
posted by Atom12 at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2012

Best answer: Hey fellow Nashvillian!

Agreed with the people above about speaking to your councilperson, if you're in a residential area there may be regulatory impediments to starting a business that they could help you navigate or at least be aware of.

Purely guessing here but I think the "big time" indy coffee houses like Bongo Java, Frothy Monkey, Crema etc will probably want to be very careful about expansion because they sort of have a brand to protect. You might talk to more small-time shops, like The Jam that recently opened near Belmont, they at least might be able to tell you what they were looking for when they picked a location, what the difficulties were, etc.
posted by ghharr at 1:52 PM on June 6, 2012

Response by poster: Gosh, thanks everyone - these are some great ideas. We will put them to work!
posted by mmiddle at 2:31 PM on June 6, 2012

Have you considered doing some basic market research, and supplying it to potential outlets? Chances are, the coffee shops you've approached have an outdated opinion about your neighborhood and the disposable income they can find there.
posted by downing street memo at 2:45 PM on June 6, 2012

I suspect my neighbourhood is kind of similar to yours. (I assume we're gentrifying as we have a Starbucks, a Jimmy Johns and a CVS that stick out rather.) You could try phoning up Boiler Room and see what induced them to take the plunge. (There was a short-lived coffee shop of the same name in that location, so they took over the space after it was empty for a little while.) This place is also nearby and took over a space that had failed (I think) twice as a coffee shop after the Acadia left for another part of town.

Anyway, I'm guess I'm saying talk to people who have recently opened the sorts of places you want to attract and see what factors were important to them. (Though, honestly, I think people keep trying to make the old Acadia work because the Acadia was successful. Otherwise, who opens a coffee shop across an intersection from Starbucks?)
posted by hoyland at 3:31 PM on June 6, 2012

Another round-about way to find a candidate like this would be to contact some firms that deal with the specialty coffee industry to see if they can pair you up with someone already looking to open a cafe in that area; oftentimes these people aren't really on the radar, especially if the cafe is a new entity.

It's a weird industry, but ask the folks over at Bellissimo, Brewed Behavior, Boot Coffee or Scott Rao.

Again, long shot, but they might know someone in your area who is actively trying to open a shop, or they could put you in touch with that person once they come along.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:06 PM on June 6, 2012

Actually, I'd try to lure a franchise and then the locally owned place will follow. Two coffee places in the same block (like a Winchells and a Starbucks) will draw more traffic than just 1 on it's own. If you can get a chain to take the risk and open, the market will be a whole lot easier for the indie that follows. Making the indie take the risk isn't fair--because if the indie shows any signs of success, you know the chain will be right there.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:01 PM on June 6, 2012

Try your regional Small business Administration office and see whether they are already working with someone in your area who wants to start something, or if they have contacts in your area who can help.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2012

here in oakland, some enterprising folks put together the popuphood. i'm not positive about the nitty gritty, but my understanding is that they offered free rent to several indie retailers in vacant storefronts for six months. the venture was very successful, and at the end of the free rent, most of the participating businesses signed leases. this was retail, not food, because food is actually one thing we've got going on already. but the concept could be the same. i think the key is getting a group of businesses together to create a new "district" of sorts. strength in numbers and all that. creating a shopping destination rather than a single new shop.
posted by apostrophe at 7:52 AM on June 7, 2012

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