by Sue Ann Rybak
Plans for the opening of a Wingstop restaurant franchise at 6700 Germantown Ave. were canceled by Mt. Airy USA after the community development group decided that the prospective owner, Richard Johnson, was unable to execute the project in a timely manner.
The 5,100-square-foot historic building, which was renovated by Mt. Airy USA, is the former site of the Carson Valley Children’s Aid Corp, a social service provider, and earlier, of the original Mt. Airy Post Office. Anuj Gupta, executive director of Mt. Airy USA, said his organization could not afford to let the building – vacant for two years – remain unoccupied because of financial obligations.
“In light of the change in timing, we decided to terminate the lease, and I am hopeful that he (Johnson) will consider another site in the northwest,” Gupta said.
Several near neighbors of the proposed 58-seat restaurant expressed concerns about alcohol consumption, a lack of parking and trash at a community meeting last month.
While Gupta agreed that their fears were justified, Mt. Airy USA would have approved the proposed plan if there had been no delay in occupancy.
Gupta, who said Johnson and residents had been working together to address any concerns, said Mt. Airy needs businessmen who are willing to invest in Mt. Airy.
“One of our goals is to facilitate projects that create job opportunities for people – and Wingstop was going to do that,” Gupta said.
As a result of the Wingstop cancellation, Mt. Airy USA currently is in negotiations with High Point Cafe owner Meg Hagele, who is planning to move into the Germantown Avenue site in December.
“High Point is one of the neighborhood’s treasures,” Gupta said. “And in some ways they have become a victim of their own success.”
He said High Point Cafe, which has two locations – one on Carpenter Lane and one at the Allens Train Station – is looking to expand its kitchen space.
Hagele said just six months after opening its new location at the Allens Lane Train Station it had outgrown its kitchen space. She added that the coffee shop bakes 300 pastries a day and makes everything from scratch, including mint syrup using mint from its farm at Awbury Arboretum.
“It was clear that we were pushing the limit,” said Hagele, a Mt. Airy native. “In order to expand we needed a bigger kitchen.”
Hagele said that after being approached by several coffee shop owners to sell her pastries, she decided to open a whole new division of High Point Cafe – a separate business called High Point Wholesale.
“A little over a year ago I decided I wanted to start roasting our own coffee,” said Hagele, who is a barista with 20 years experience in the coffee business. “It just made sense because we make everything from scratch,”
Hagele developed High Point’s blend of coffee in partnership with Maine Hofius, co-founder of True North Coffee Roasters based in Seattle. She was an old friend from her barista days.
The building will contain High Point’s roasting facility and bakery, as well as a coffee bar or coffee laboratory that will be used to host coffee seminars, coffee tastings for perspective clients and barista training. The facility will not be open to the public.
Hagele said there is “a delicate balance between coffee and pastry.”
“Most shops that sell coffee do a really great job and they sell pastries to go with their coffee,” Hagele said. “There are some great bakeries that make a great bakery product but their coffee is just coffee. For us it has always been about the whole package.”