Intrepid closing elicits support, concerns from residents

Aug. 14, 2014 @ 06:42 PM

After seven months at 106 W. Parrish St., Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits will be closing in a few weeks.

Matt Victoriano, former Marine Corps sergeant, said he ran the business with a mission: pay employees a living wage and hire as many veterans as possible.

But while the idea was unique, he said, it wasn’t enough to sustain business.

Intrepid fell behind in paying rent and received notification from the property owners that it had to vacate the space by Sept. 7, Victoriano said.

“It’s minute to minute,” he said about plans and selling the equipment in the shop.

Victoriano created the business after moving to Durham from Arkansas in 2013. He came up with the idea because of his difficult experiences with employment after he served as a Team Leader for scout/sniper teams during two tours in Iraq .

“In 10 years (of jobs,) I was either fired or quit,” he said. “I wanted to create a business to help veterans.”

Victoriano said the shop, which offers coffee, beer and food and serves as an event venue, didn’t receive enough business to stay open.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to put into marketing,” he said.

Intrepid announced the closing through its social media page.

“Feel free to stop in and thank the amazing combat veterans who struggled after coming home only to find hope and pride in working at Intrepid,” the post reads. “And do your best to help them find jobs so they won't be unemployed like they were when Intrepid gave them jobs.”

Mark Overbay, founder and president of Big Spoon Roasters, commented on the post that there are opportunities at Big Spoon Roasters for any Intrepid staff looking for a job.

And others have shown support through social media after a post Tuesday by employee Josh Comstock read, “Community…..please….come together and lets work for our success!!....I am trying everything short of a miracle and not sure if I can do this with just us….thank you and we want to see all of you…we want this….”

One person offered to mail a check and others offered to come in and purchase items to support the business.

The space is approximately 2,000 square feet and owned by Bullocity Redevelopment, which renovated the space in 2011 and 2012

Bullocity principals could not be reached for comment.

Several Durham residents expressed concern through the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association listserv that the rent is too high in the area, making it nearly impossible for Intrepid to stay in business.

“Get ready for the homogenization of Durham,” one responder wrote. “It is coming.”

But Jamie Gruener, founder of the business next to Intrepid, Norton Street Business Services Inc, said the rent has not posed a problem to business.

 “Our rent/employee ratio is about $2,600:1 (for each employee we pay $2,600 in rent per year) which seems very reasonable for a business model, though we do pay below market average,” Gruener said in an email. “If we were paying at the top end of the local market, we would certainly notice, but it certainly wouldn't be a make-or-break proposition. Folks might sit just a bit closer together, though.”