Alchemy Coffee reverses closure plans, to be sold to Brambly Park co-owner

Alchemy opened its brick-and-mortar shop in 2014. (BizSense file photo)

Last Thursday night, two months after going public with its plans to convert to a co-op ownership model, downtown-based Alchemy Coffee took to social media to announce its impending closure.

But then the offers started rolling in.

Alchemy owner Eric Spivack said the announcement prompted interest from those interested in buying the West Broad Street coffee shop and others keen on helping Alchemy achieve its co-op goal.

And it looks like one of those offers is moving forward.

Spivack confirmed Monday a pending deal to sell the company to Bobby Kruger, who co-owns Scott’s Addition winery Brambly Park and would take over the downtown cafe and keep it open.

“We know each other through the industry. He saw the post like everybody did and DM’d me like a lot of people did,” Spivack said of Kruger. “Knowing him and knowing what he’s offering, he was the best option.”

Eric Spivack

Spivack said the planned deal will include the Alchemy brand and its cafe at 814 W. Broad St. The sale to Kruger would hinge on whether VCU’s real-estate arm, which owns Alchemy’s building, would allow Kruger to lease the space.

The Alchemy mobile coffee trailer, which Spivack launched in 2012 prior to opening the downtown shop, was sold over the weekend to a local coffee roasting outfit. Spivack would not identify that buyer.

Spivack said he began planning to close Alchemy because he had hit a dead end in his efforts to find a financial partner to facilitate a planned transition to a cooperative model and offer his employees an ownership stake in Alchemy.

He said that being able to offer younger workers a financing mechanism to buy into the co-op was a key element of that planned transition. His once-promising conversations with a couple local credit unions ultimately didn’t pan out.

He had hoped the cooperative would be in place and able to carry on Alchemy’s lease at the West Broad Street shop. But when the cooperative effort floundered, and with Spivack unwilling to renew it himself, he decided to announce the closure.

“The plan for the cooperative effectively fell apart from the standpoint of having the financing worked out,” Spivack said. “We got to the end of the line to have it approved by underwriting and it wasn’t approved and that happened twice and we effectively ran out of time.”

He said that shortly after his announcement on social media he heard from people seeking to buy the company or offering help in getting the cooperative transition back on track.

Among them was Kruger, who contacted Spivack on Instagram to kick off conversations about a sale.

“They’ve got a good product and a good team and a solid location,” Kruger said Monday. “To me it was a no-brainer to step in and preserve that brand and that team.”

Kruger said he doesn’t have any major changes in store for Alchemy. He also said he has no immediate plans to rekindle the drive toward a cooperative ownership model at Alchemy but didn’t rule out considering it, either.

“I haven’t done any research or have any foundational understanding of what that process looks like,” Kruger said. “The best way to characterize my feelings on it is ignorant but not disinterested.”

Kruger, who is managing partner at Brambly Park at 1708 Belleville St. in Scott’s Addition, said he intended to continue his role at the restaurant and winery in addition to taking the helm at Alchemy.

Spivack opened The Lab by Alchemy coffee shop on Broad Street in 2014. The company originally launched as a coffee trailer in 2012. Spivack said Monday that he didn’t have immediate plans for his next step.

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Eric Perkins
Eric Perkins
28 days ago

That’s great news. For small biz owners, a third-party sale is almost always a better option than a liquidation.