LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — If you’ve lived in Louisville long enough, chances are good you remember some of the places that aren’t around anymore but still hold a special place in our hearts.
Ear X-Tacy and Lynn’s Paradise Cafe are example of recent years. This week, people lined up to say goodbye to another local legend. And the outpouring of love for a small business in the heart of the Highlands was pretty strong.
On a busy stretch of Bardstown Road, tucked behind Urban Outfitters, is a place many called home — even if just for a few minutes a day — for decades. The Highland Coffee Company has been keeping people caffeinated for 22 years, but for the people lining up at the business this week, it’s about the memories and friendships they’ve made inside the coffee shop.
“I just spent a ton of time here between work and home,” said Kris Ritcher, a longtime customer. “Having the owners in the shop all of the time really did make it feel much more like a community and kind of like they said on their Facebook post, like a family. And they knew our names, and I know he knows my name to this day. They came to some of our weddings and they saw our kids grow up.”
That’s why saying goodbye isn’t easy.
“It’s definitely hard, but I am happy I was able to come in and be part of it,” Ritcher said. “I moved over to the neighborhood in 1997, and they opened in ’99, and that was my coffee shop ever since.”
Some of the people in line Wednesday live nearby and walked, and others made a special trip from hundreds of miles away.
“I flew in from Fort Lauderdale just to be here for these guys,” said Jennifer Anderson, a customer and former employee.
“When I heard the place was closing, I got on the plane at midnight,” said Zachary Culbertson, another longtime customer. “This is my favorite coffee place, and I actually love the coffee, too.”
Culbertson lives on the west coast, but he made a last minute trip after hearing the news.
“Yeah, I’ve been coming here for 22 years,” he said. “I started coming here when I was 19. Now, I am 41.”
On Sunday night, the owners shared a post on Facebook, letting customers know they’re closing the popular coffee shop for good this week.
“It was a lot of tearful nights coming up with that,” said Greg Hofer, owner of Highland Coffee Company.
Since sharing the post, Hofer said there’s been an outpouring of support.
“We just can’t say enough about this community,” he said. “What they’ve done for us, it really is the customers that have made this place.”
In the Facebook post, Hofer also thanked the employees who’ve helped keep the doors open for 22 years, including Anderson, who now lives in Florida but came back to say goodbye.
“I worked here for quite a long time, a little over 10 years,” she said. “Twenty-two years, and I was here a lot of that and met many people that we still consider family here.”
Hofer said after more than two decades in business and COVID-19 still causing problems in the business world, it’s time.
“This has been on our mind for a few years,” he said. “Twenty-two years into this, we’re not sure we have the stamina to weather another winter with COVID going on like this.”
Since getting the news, customers have been lining up, getting one last cup of coffee, grabbing a table or souvenir T-shirt and sharing memories.
“This shop and Natalie and Greg really did change my life,” Richer said. “I met a girl here who I ended up working with for three or four years. I met one of my lifelong friends here in 1999.”
Even man’s best friend is not happy about the news. Malynda November, a longtime customer, said her dog, Beethoven, even has a favorite treat at the coffee shot.
“Pup cones and coffee are kind of what we run on,” she said.
Customers spent Wednesday enjoying the last-minute reunion, but it is not easy.
“It’s like losing somebody. Just gotta say your goodbyes and wish them the best for their future and see what they have in mind,” Anderson said. “We are hoping that they’ll change their mind, but I don’t know. I think it is just we’re all going to have to say our goodbyes and wish them the best.”
Will the support change Hofer’s mind?
“We’ve had a good run, 22 years,” he said. “I think we are at that point in our lives where we’ve given it all we have.”
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