After Bill and Sheri Thomas handed the reigns of the beloved coffee shop and gathering place over to Jamie Simpson and his “girlfriend, business partner, my morning and my night,” Morgan Tucker, rumors circulated of the downtown shop becoming a bed and breakfast, restaurant or simply getting a brand new business model.
Simpson said right now they don’t intend to do any of those things, but look forward to adapting to “what the community wants” and infusing the business with even more passion and creativity.
Bill Thomas said the duo are “very capable” and have the full support of the former owners almost having been handpicked for the position.
Neither Simpson nor Tucker are new to the industry. Simpson has worked in food/hospitality for the better part of 16 years, while Tucker is the third-generation of a continuing legacy in the industry. They moved to the area about five years ago from Charleston, S.C. when Simpson decided he wanted to be closer to the food he used as a chef.
Simpson now works as the executive chef liaison at Culinary Vegetable Institute at The Chef’s Garden in Milan. He said that will remain his prime responsibility, though he plans to spend the early mornings and evenings at Sheri’s.
“Coffee is one of the most impactful agricultural products on the planet,” he said.
“We often forget that coffee comes from farms with real farmers. There are real people growing and picking these things and fermenting them and then selling them to survive. I’ve been on coffee plantations. Anything I can do to support those people and the community is a wonderful bridge. Coffee, you notice, is even on the cover of the most recent Time Magazine. ... I love coffee.”
Tucker said that same passion carries over into everything they do, including their new ownership of Sheri’s.
“One thing that’s so incredible about Jamie is his passion of taking care of the people behind the product, that sustainable living, and minimizing food waste and the impact he has on the environment,” Tucker said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I fell so deeply in love with him — because he’s so concerned with doing what’s right thing by the farmer. ... That’s what drew (us) here — the opportunity to connect with the farmer, or the artisan and craftsman behind the work.”
Simpson said he enjoys the drink for the impact it has on people’s lives, adding that it “determines the rest of the day.”
“If making coffee is your first creative act of the day, then you may as well get it right,” he said.
Tucker and Simpson intend to assess what the community wants before making changes, if any are needed. Simpson said he also wants to make sure any changes made would be “socially responsible, environmentally friendly (and) economically viable.”
“My experience tells me you should first come in, meet and get to know the people and take care of the workers,” Tucker said. “Then you can see what magic sauce you can add to it. ... We are coming in with open arms to carry on what Billy and Sheri were already doing. We haven’t started anything. They built everything. We are just carrying the torch into next stage.”
“Every decision you make is ultimately guided by the community,” Simpson added. “It’s a business plan to give back to the community. It’s the same business plan as Sheri’s. It’ll still be Sheri’s.”
Making Sheri’s environmentally responsible is one change they do plan to incorporate though, focusing on sustainability. One example is using single-use plastics.
“That’s not to say we’re getting rid of straws, but there are better options. It’s not going to reflect a price change to the guests. It’s going to cost us more, but I think it’s socially responsible, environmentally sustainable as possible,” Simpson said.
Simpson has an ongoing five-year sponsorship with Crimson Cup, the company behind Sheri’s. He said they don’t plan to change the drink menu much, but he does hope to add special coffees to the already wide array of options.
Simpson said he takes his brew “very seriously.”
“I told (Crimson Cup), I’m not trying to turn this place in to some high-level, molecular-exploration coffee culture, but I do want to serve some really unique products that you can only get here,” he said.
“I want single-origin, fair trade, farmer-owned, farmer-known coffee sources basically — not government subsidized buckets, not drug trade Colombian stuff. I want really specific, very special cups of coffee, beyond the added sugars and pumps and whip creams and a bunch of fancy garnishes. (I want) just really interesting, special cups of coffee.”
And with a strong and creative background in the culinary arts, Sheri’s new feel wouldn’t be complete without some new food options too. Simpson said he hopes the community will help them decide what they will be.
“I know how to juggle a lot of different things,” Tucker said. “I am prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure the community knows we care about the people in the community and the business.”