Rock Hill diners will have to look elsewhere for organic chicken salad and Rwandan coffee. Cupps is closing.
The coffee shop on Cherry Road aspired to become the hangout that Winthrop University students have long wanted near campus. But it didn't grow fast enough, owner Chuck Robinson said Wednesday.
When a job offer in the software industry came his way, Robinson felt he couldn't turn it down. The last day is May 10, two months shy of a year in business. Robinson hopes to sell the building and ultimately break even on the investment.
"It was more the job offer," he said of his decision. "We really built the night business. We've had a ton of support from the students. The flip side is, any small, independent business has to pay a lot for food. People will only pay so much for a sandwich."
Cupps was unique on the Cherry Road dining scene. Executive cook Lell Trogdon made everything from scratch: Egg, chicken and tuna salads, daily soup specials such as creamy tomato with chicken and corn -- and desserts from espresso Kahlua cheesecake and lemon truffles to apple cinnamon rolls known as "grumpies."
The place attracted a loyal clientele of Winthrop students and professors. Many would stop in several times a day. A social group called Drinking Liberally met regularly to drink beer and talk politics. Local bands played on Friday nights.
"I actually just heard this morning," said Winthrop senior Steven Welborn. "I used to go to Rock Hill Roasting Co. before it closed. I'm all for local coffee shops. It was sort of a nice place to hang out and relax."
Asked what he would do now, Welborn said: "I'll just continue going to Starbucks."
During its brief existence, Cupps brought new life to the old Parrish's Flowlerland building and carried hopes for cultivating a college-town atmosphere around the Winthrop campus.
Instead, it becomes another casualty, joining Tam's Tavern, Durango Bagel, El Caribe and Taco Bueno, which all closed or moved elsewhere.
"As students, we don't have a lot of money," said Janet Custer, a junior at Winthrop. "I think it's really sad, but I grew up in Clemson, which is another college town. I've seen this happen a lot."
Robinson grew up in New Milford, Conn., near where his parents belonged to a farmers co-op and tended to a small apple orchard. After college, he spent 17 years as a computer software programmer -- the career to which he's now returning.
Though Cupps bustled at lunch and did a solid dinner business, Robinson said the stress of working 80 to 90 hours every week was becoming too much.
"If Winthrop was a huge college town, it would be a prime piece of real estate," he said. "It's not enough of one. The mentality is just not quite there to support small businesses. I think we did our part to change that. Hopefully, whoever picks it up will continue to."
Not long after Cupps opened, Robinson said the breakneck pace didn't feel like a grind to him. Nearly a year later, his outlook has changed.
"That's not as true now as it was then," he said.