Vienna Coffee House goes to hold grand opening at new location on College Street in Maryville
By Robert Norris | (email@example.com)
You know of garage bands that evolved into stars that rocked storied music venues. In Maryville, there’s a roastmaster who started in his own garage and now has opened a premier coffee house to rival those on the West Coast.
Roastmaster John Clark is set to hold the grand opening weekend of his new location of Vienna Coffee House at 212 College Street in downtown Maryville. The newest location of the coffee house — which, by the way, is also a music venue — will celebrate Friday through Sunday. In addition to a wide variety of specials on coffee-based beverages and hourly door prizes from 10 a.m. Friday to close, there will be displays of original art work and musical performances by local artists throughout the weekend. More on that, but first a little prequel:
Clark, whose parents ran Frank & Mary Clark Photography, didn’t plan on being a roastmaster. The Maryville native, whose grandmother, Emma Clark, was the big sister of D.W. Proffitt, founder of Proffitt’s Department Store, graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in chemical engineering and did hazardous waste management for chemical companies. One job took him to San Francisco before the specialty coffee craze that started in Berkeley had expanded beyond California.
“I grew to love dark-roasted, good coffee back in the ’80s before there was a Starbucks,” Clark said.
When the opportunity arose, the Clark family returned to East Tennessee, but John had one regret.
“I was just dying. I couldn’t drink JFG. I couldn’t drink Folgers. I couldn’t drink Maxwell House. And there was no Starbucks in town,” he said.
Clark admits he had turned into a coffee snob. Using his California connections, he bought specialty beans that he roasted in a popcorn popper on the stove top in his kitchen. He wanted more. He started to design a coffee roaster. He got sidetracked when he found a used Ambex coffee roaster on eBay in Canada. The owner wasn’t mechanically inclined and thought the roaster didn’t work.
“So, I got it here, pulled it apart, found out what the problem was, put it back together. Worked like a champ.” Voila, a $10,000 roaster for $1,700.
Now he was roasting in his garage, but he had too much coffee for himself and started giving it away. That was like giving money away, so he started selling his coffee “just to support my hobby.” Then the don’t-look-back moment: The chemical company he worked for wanted Clark to transfer to Philadelphia.
“And I said, ‘I think I’ll stay in East Tennessee and see if I can make a go of coffee.’ It was a really ripe opportunity because there was nobody doing good coffee here — nobody! So I said, ‘I can make a living doing good coffee, once I teach people what good coffee is.’”
Clark picked up his last corporate paycheck July 31, 2002.
“On my way home from work that day, I made three sales calls and one of them to Aubrey’s, and the rest is history.”
The Aubrey’s restaurant chain is still a customer, along with 19 Kroger stores and some others: Sullivan’s, Foothills Milling Company, Barley’s, Horn of Plenty Marketplace, Amburn’s Produce, and in Townsend the Village Market IGA and Firefly Cafe.
The grand opening
Eric Spurgeon, host of the coffee house’s First Friday Music Series, will perform at 6 p.m. Friday, followed at 7:30 p.m. by Charlie Katt, adult contemporary and champion singer/songwriter.
On Saturday, Sunshine Station (noon-2 p.m.), Shady Banks (6-8 p.m.) and Mending Wall (8-10 p.m.) will perform. At 2 p.m. on the lawn between the new outdoor patio and Pistol Creek on the Greenbelt, Vienna Coffee House will host an all-comers corn hole tournament with team prizes.
Winners of the “Arts of Vienna” (All About Coffee) Art Competition will be announced during a Fine Arts Blount co-sponsored Artist Reception from 4-6 p.m. The competition art pieces are on display with a special “Customer’s Choice” prize being voted on by customers all this week. The UT Small Jazz Ensemble will perform during the reception and the public is invited.
Activities on Sunday will include a drum circle on the patio. The drum circle, facilitated by musician and barista Casey Sullivan from 3-5 p.m., is open to all ages and all who want to play hand drums and percussion as part of a group. The favorite roots band Red Shoes and Rosin will wrap up the weekend’s events from 6-8 p.m. There is no admission charge for any event.
A full-service drive-thru window, expanded live music venue and the open-air patio with café tables are highlights of the new Vienna Coffee Company location. The 11-year old locally owned company had been operating from two locations — the wholesale roastery business on Everett Avenue and the Vienna Coffee House on High Street.
Clark announced in February that he purchased the former Maryville Furniture Store/Habitat for Humanity Re-Store building next to Dandy Lions Boutique with plans to consolidate his business into the one 18,000-square-foot location.
The new Coffee House is on the main level of the three story building and offers expanded space for individuals and groups to enjoy a full array of coffee-based drinks, teas, pastries, quiches and other treats, along with a live music venue and free Wi-Fi. The coffee house offers comfortable seating for 100 on the main level, a 500-square-foot conference room for small groups and business meetings and a real fireplace. In addition, the new location serves as a retail outlet for whole bean and ground varieties of Vienna Coffee, home coffee brewing hardware, gift baskets and other related items.
“We opened the doors to our new coffeehouse location in June and transferred our roastery business (including the big U.S. Roaster machine) here in July,” Clark said. “We wanted to make sure we had all of our systems up and running before holding a grand opening. We’re all spiffed up and ready now, and can’t wait for the party to begin.”