Published September 3rd, 2019 at 11:50 AM
It was never really about the coffee. Jeremy and Stacy Neff sold human connections one cup at a time. And that’s why legions of loyal customers are feeling such deep loss over the closure Sunday of One More Cup, the little coffeehouse at 7408 Wornall Road.
The Neffs bought the shop 10 years ago on a bit of a whim – naming it after a Bob Dylan song. They set about shaping the space with their own eclectic, comfortable style – bright colors, rotating art for sale on the walls, and for early risers soft seating in a corner perfect for a Saturday morning linger.
The concept was straightforward. The Neffs were going to spend as many waking hours at the shop as at home, so make it as homey as possible. One More Cup became a personal expression of the proprietors.
It worked like a charm. The shop developed a devoted following as eclectic as the owners. Buff bodybuilders would drop by after a session at City Gym. The ink crowd from Irezumi Tattoo became regulars. Parishioners from St. Elizabeth would gather to pass the time.
Like Jeffrey Lebowski’s precious rug, One More Cup really tied the neighborhood together.
“It’s been amazing to see the connections made over the last 10 years,” Stacy recalled last week.
And that really was the central value of One More Cup. In an era of technological distance and social schism, in which people delude themselves into thinking a text can substitute for talk, or that a screen can substitute for a human face, One More Cup offered a safe space for diverse people to connect.
Put simply, One More Cup was real. And that makes its absence all the more palpable.
“I’ve shed tears daily since the announcement,” said J. Micheal Wimpy, who most mornings occupied the big black leather chair just inside the front door. “One More Cup has been my second home for eight years. It’s been my church, my social club, my music source, my group therapy, my dog petting place… And (home) of the coolest, most soulful, sweetest, most welcoming baristas the coffee gods have ever imagined.”
The good news is that almost all of the baristas quickly found new situations. Olivia will be at McLain’s Bakery. Julia is heading to Traders Joe’s. Phoebe is moving to Arkansas with her fiance. And a couple of the baristas, such as Celina Curry, who was getting married in Pennsylvania the weekend the shop closed, are leaning into art-focused careers.
Before departing for her wedding, Celina posted a sign to commemorate her last Thursday shift at One More Cup, which read in part: “I’ve been working this shift since I started in 2013 and have been ruthless about claiming it every time we had a schedule change because all of you have made it the highlight of my week year after year.”
Not surprisingly, some partings were fraught. One morning last week, a little girl in her father’s arms waved plaintively as she said “bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye” to the baristas – tears streaking her cheeks. There were misty eyes on both sides of the counter.
As emotional as the closing of One More Cup has been, the Neffs take pride in the fine balance of art and commerce they struck.
“While products are nice, and making money is fine, it’s always been about more than that,” the Neffs recalled in a final message to customers before the closure. “It’s been about people and community. We’ve been incredibly honored by the enormous wave of love and support we’ve seen these past few weeks and really across all of the years. We feel we accomplished our goals of creating a space where everyone feels welcomed, important, safe, and accepted for who they are. Thank you for sharing so much of your lives with us, and for letting us share right back.”
The Neffs didn’t close the shop due to any particular financial duress. Indeed, they made sure to do it on their own terms. Put simply, they were “running out of steam” tending to a small business 24-7 for a decade while raising children. And they want to explore other possibilities for the rest of their working lives. Jeremy plans to focus more on his piano tuning business. Stacy feels the pull of nonprofit work.
They’re convinced the change will do them good. After all, as Dylan once said, “Life is about creating yourself.”
On Sunday, near closing time, Jeremy was on the back deck, strumming a Neil Young song surrounded by friends, family, employees and a few customers. It was truly the golden hour for One More Cup – sun dappled amid lengthening shadows. And it felt like home.
So One More Cup, both the property and the business, is now for sale. The buzz in Waldo is that there’s plenty of interest, and it might even reopen as a coffee shop.
In business, as in nature, vacuums get filled. But they’re never quite the same. And that’s why a lot of folks in Waldo are feeling a little homeless away from home this week.