WEB EXCLUSIVE Davidson-based Summit Coffee is coming to the Triangle.
Calling all coffee fans! Your taste buds and energy levels are in for a zing as NC-based specialty coffee retailer Summit Coffee is planning to spill into Raleigh and the Triangle by the end of next year. Better latte than never, right?
Started as a local coffee shop on historic Main Street in Davidson in 1998, Summit has developed and changed over the years to become a fast-growing, nontraditional coffee chain that roasts delicious cups of joe and champions its communities and the environment (see its partnership with 1% for the Planet, an international org whose members contribute at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes).
At the helm (or manning the press, if you will) is Brian Helfrich, a Davidson resident who became CEO in 2016. Prior to taking over, Helfrich ran the original cafe alongside his brother Tim (who purchased the shop in 2003) for five years.
Since Helfrich came on board, Summit has switched to importing and roasting its own coffee; opened a second location in Davidson; and—in the last four years alone—opened cafes in Charlotte, Asheville and Huntersville, with another scheduled to open in Roswell, Georgia, this spring.
“We’ve put tremendous energy into expanding our cafe footprint,” says Helfrich. And he’s not finished. Over the next five years, Helfrich plans to open at least five cafes in the Triangle. A few Raleigh neighborhoods he’s scoping out include Downtown, Five Points, Glenwood, Midtown, North Hills, North Raleigh and the Warehouse District.
To ensure new cafes stay on brand, Summit chooses neighborhoods for each franchise as carefully as it handles its coffee beans. For example, Helfrich and his team look for neighborhoods that house active, young families and prefer franchise owners to be residents of—or have a strong connection to—the same communities as their cafes. “We have found that cafes are most loved and most successful when people live in the community and know the communities where the cafes exist,” he says.
And when it comes to designing a new location, Summit does not use a one-size-fits-all model. “We internally hand-design all of our new cafes because we want them to be representative of the neighborhoods, of the building that they are going into—if there’s some kind of historical element, or if we are going into a really family-friendly community,” explains Helfrich. “The cafes deserve to have a little bit of their own unique feel to it.”
While each franchise location reflects its specific community, the Summit brand—and passions—always drips through. “We want Summit to have the reliability, efficiency and quality of a really high-end coffee company, but have the experience feel local and engaged,” says Helfrich.
One way Summit engages with its local communities is by giving back. Each franchise location donates 1% of its annual earnings back to the community, such as a local school or nonprofit. “I’m passionate about coffee, but more so, I’m passionate about making people’s lives better to the extent that I can,” says Helfrich. “Ultimately, I really want the world to be a happier, kinder place.” A brew-tiful thing indeed.