Intrepid Life launches indiegogo campaign, is also apparently for sale

The first time I heard anything about Intrepid Life Coffee and Spirits was when I saw on reddit that it’s closing.

The business, which is owned and operated by a former Marine and strives to employ vets, has apparently been struggling for a while. In response to back rent, a couple of weeks ago the owner indicated on Facebook that he was closing shop.

The following week, though, an indiegogo campaign showed up asking for $25k to keep the business going. Shortly after the launch of the campaign, Intrepid Life started receiving some press, and most notably they were honored by President Obama. They’re now at $21,090 out of the $25000 goal following an apparent Obama bump.

On the face of it Intrepid Life looks like a business that’s worthy of support, but /u/sellbotics did a bit of digging and noticed that the business has been listed as for sale for some months now. The reason listed for selling: “Owner is burnt out.”

Is this a struggling business looking for a cash infusion to keep the doors open? Or is the owner looking to move on?

Regardless, crowdfunding is never a sure thing, either for the funder or the funded. As always, caveat emptor.

5 thoughts on “Intrepid Life launches indiegogo campaign, is also apparently for sale”

  1. I haven’t spoken to the owner about it, but it did sound like a month ago, during the closing announcements, that he was ready to give up. I have to imagine that attempting to “sell” the business was one way of looking to get out.

    After the closing announcement, there was a great deal of community support. I honestly think that the owner didn’t know how to ask for help, or didn’t expect that the community would rally around him if he did ask for help. I think he was genuinely surprised that people cared because business had been off. I also think that business was off in the summer because things around Durham (coffee shops and bars in particular) are much quieter when the Duke students aren’t around. It isn’t just undergrads, either, but grad students, faculty, etc. who are more likely to be traveling or on vacation.

    It is a legitimate question as to the sustainability of the coffee house/bar business in downtown Durham with so much competition. It could be that there is better coffee, better drinks, and just as compelling social movements to support, compared to Intrepid Life, and that the business is not sustainable. But I think the people that have put up $21,000+ so far are willing to give the owner the benefit of the doubt and a second chance to continue to grow his business. He has some ideas about how to do it, and it seems like he is getting more support from others. Personally, all the people who are complaining about the growth of chain retail in Durham should be putting money in (and probably are) because we know that is much easier for Panera to wait out a slow start compared to a new entrepreneur.

    Also worth noting, many of his incentives on the IndieGoGo campaign amount to “pre-payment” of drinks, so you can kind of think of the campaign as a micro-loan effort instead of a donation effort.

    As for the shop itself, I can say that the seating is comfortable, the wi-fi fast, the standard coffee drinks at decent quality level for a better price than many other local indie shops, the staff friendly, and the mix of photographs and military memorabilia (for lack of a better term) an interesting counterpoint to the standard bourgeoisie coffeehouse vibe.

    Final note: There was also another NPR item on Here and Now yesterday that probably caused a bigger bump than any Obama influence …

    1. I’ve never met the owner, although I know that a lot of people vouch for his character.

      The thing I keep coming back to: $25,000 doesn’t seem like enough money to change the trajectory of a failing business. He may have the best of intentions with this fund raiser, but it’s difficult to imagine how a small cash injection (of which some chunk is already spoken for in back rent) will right the ship. I know rent can’t be cheap downtown.

      Of course, he’s gotten a lot of free advertising over the last week or so, which certainly can’t hurt. I’ve at least *heard* of the place now, which is more than I could have said a month ago (and I do try to keep up with these things, yanno). So maybe that plus the students plus the cash will be enough to keep the lights on?

  2. Per their facebook:
    “Thanks for all of the support. We aren’t able to stay at our current location, so we are looking for a new space in Durham. Our last open at the current location is this Saturday.”

    But, they’ve hit their IndieGoGo goal, which means they’re walking away with $28,000 of your hard-earned money (less fees). I thought the whole crowdfunding thing was a way to stay in their current location? Sounds like some bullshit. If this was his goal all along, he could’ve pitched it as “we’re closing but keep me out of bankruptcy”, not “let’s keep it open but I’m really going to take the money and run”…..

    1. Looks like he’s having an auction tomorrow too. And something sketchy going on here with the indie go go. Anyone have the scoop what happens if you support an Indie GoGo where the company doesn’t deliver the service as advertised?

      1. It’s up to the project owner to decide what to do if they can’t meet their stated goals after a project is funded. They could refund all or part of the money but they’re not obligated to as far as I know.

        It’s worth noting that nowhere was it guaranteed that the store would continue in its current location if funding succeeded, although it was obviously heavily implied.

        From a practical standpoint there’s a good chance they can deliver many of the promised rewards even if they don’t actually reopen as a full cafe. The “store credit” rewards might be kind of difficult, but they could probably find some kind of way to make good on them.

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