I had a lovely chat with Cheryl Brantley over a cup of hot coffee, and got to hear about this latest venture of hers. She opened her new Cafe 120 coffee shop in February 2018. It is located in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
“I want to take my life savings and go start a coffee shop.”
“I worked 26 years for a company doing technical customer support for computers. I worked as a support person, and then became support manager, and eventually global support manager. And then I saw the writing on the wall like 5 years ago. The writing looked like layoffs if you were older than 40 – you knew you were going on the short list. I was laid off a year ago. And, you know, they gave you severance and tried to be nice about it. But the fact of the matter is that after you work for a company for 26 years it’s really difficult to go into another company. I knew our product inside out, and I knew our customers. The thought of going into a different company and learning all that again… I just couldn’t face it.
So I talked to my husband, and told him, “I want to take my life savings and go start a coffee shop.” So that’s what I did. He understood my passion and trusted me. I mean, this has been really hard. It was a lot easier 20 years ago when I did this. I had a coffee shop 20 years ago. It was a lot easier, rules were not as stringent as they are now. Back then when I opened I drew on a piece of paper what I was going to do, and went to the county and said, “Here’s what I’m doing!” And they said, “Okay!” And I got myself a contractor and built it out and that was it.”
“At the time I had young children – a 10 year old and a 4 year old. And I thought I was superwoman and could handle it all. And the coffee shop did manage to stay open for 3 years. We were over by the old theater in Lawrenceville. It was the only theater in town and we were right next to it. We were doing well but then they opened up a new 18-screen theater, and when that happened our theater went downhill and became a dollar theater. I managed to stay open another year after that, but I was having a hard time keeping people working. So I was working more, and being a mom it wasn’t working for me. So I shut it down.
I never thought I would open one again. But this place is really similar to my first. Both times I built the type of coffee shop I wanted. But the first time it was really basic stuff – sandwiches and espresso. Now we have pour over, and French press, and nitro.
I’ve actually owned 5 businesses. I’m an artist. I do mostly pet stuff and flowers. Pet portraits, and floor cloths. So I would do art festivals on the weekends and after awhile it gets old. I also had a house flipping business right before the crash – of course. I lost five houses. It was rough. So I’m a brave soul but not always successful!
I’ve done all this while doing the customer service job full time. I’ve always had something else on the side. So when I was laid off I had to start this place. I’ve worked all my life since I was 16. I am just too young to quit working, and sit around the house being taken care of. That’s just not me.”
Hear about Cheryl’s super early mornings and the stories behind the recipes she prepares each morning in the bakery at Cafe 120. Read the article HERE.