That's a wrap 2023. #mixedfeelings

That's a wrap 2023. #mixedfeelings

Jan 06, 2024Seth Hendershot
Hendershot's staff wishing you a happy holiday


2023 was a year.

A year of highs, lows, and everything in between. Looking back I'd say I have no regrets, but man given the opportunity (and a DeLorian with a flux capacitor) I would have made some different decisions. Not to say I didn't make some good ones, but the bad ones were really bad. What's the saying? "There is no teacher like failure." I don't even know if that's a saying, probably not, but it should be. While failures are humble reminders that we are all human, they also conjure up that self-deprecating ghost called fraud factor. Luckily, I am surrounded by a supportive and loving family, an incredibly thoughtful and talented staff, and a wonderful and creative community any person would consider themselves fortunate to be a part of. And I do.


We made it, kind of sort of, through the pandemic. Is it over? What day is it? Yeah we made it. Many locals and friends did not, so I consider us fortunate indeed. Athens is a special place to own a business be it a coffee shop, a music venue, a cocktail bar, a clothing store, a UGA merch shop, a music store, a local cinema, a gift shop, or a restaurant, if this town likes you they're coming out for you. The locals proved just that during the pandemic and the business owners will never forget it. If we stay open for another year or 10 or 100 years, we will never forget it.

Also, we are roasting all of our coffee in house now on a zero emission, electric, Bellwether Coffee Roaster. And we have a beautiful new website thanks to our good friend, David Fairbairn.

Our Staff.

 I consider our staff to be one of the greatest, certainly that I've ever had the pleasure of working with, assemblage of friends and cohorts to ever work in food and bev. This is a rare thing, especially in a college town, to have young people that stand by you during some of the worst financial and personal circumstances you've ever faced. I'll say it, we almost closed for good after, what one of my staff, Sully, likes to call, Seth's "Job era". That's Job from the Bible. You know "patience of Job". More on that later. Anyway, this staff is remarkable and, try as I might, I could never say enough good things about them. I know this will not last forever as they are young and full of their own dreams and aspirations, and Hendershot's is but a rest stop on their life's journey. I will say, when you come to our coffee shop, bar, music venue please, put respect on their name and tip big. They deserve it. 


More so in 2023 than in the previous 3 years, I was scared, no terrified. I thought the end was near for our business and that sent me into a perilous spiral of self doubt, anxiety, and depression. It sucked. I drank too much, didn't sleep, had regular panic attacks and just felt hopeless. Those who know me know that is out of character to say the least. I've been told I am "ruthlessly optimistic" and I normally would agree, but this year put me to the test. It went like this:

-Just when we were starting to recover from pandemic times and the government grant ran out, the cost of goods skyrocketed, wages went up, taxes went up and sales did not go up. Oof, recipe for disaster.

-July was, hands down, the worst business month we have ever had, to the tune of a 75% drop in sales. July is typically bad, but this was unprecedented. I was bouncing checks, I was not paying myself which put a strain on my family, particularly my wife, Jenn, who was basically the sole bread winner in our house for a while, and the future just looked grim.

-Then, right at the end of the month a raging storm swept through Athens and knocked the power out for multiple days, the worst days to be closed, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Ugh the biggest business days of the week.

-Two weeks later the plumbing flooded all three units Viva, Tazikis, and Hendershot's right at 9pm, while we had a show going on. We managed to get everyone out before it got real bad, but then it got real bad.(*whiskey shot) "I'm going home". I came in the next morning to about 3 inches of water on the floor. Non potable. Ouch. 

-Then, 3 unfounded protests, I was physically attacked in the shop by a person with serious mental health issues and a drug problem, and of course the usual smattering of equipment breaking, technical issues, still covid, and burn out.

But, we got through it. Thank God.

The In Between.

I definitely don't want to paint too dark a picture, this year was unique in that while all of these things were going on and I was in crisis mode our community, once again, found a way to help. Whether through an anonymous contribution, kind words, constant support of our business, useful advice, or just general encouragement to keep going, our community showed up.

My brother, whom I love and was partners with, had to bow out of the business as he became too busy to actively participate. My spouse, Jennifer, decided to step in and thank God she did. She is sharp as a tack, thoughtfully honest, and has a brilliantly meticulous mind. She is currently our events coordinator, back end manager, and general sound board for me whenever I have a new ridiculous idea. She is there to approve or to "gently" let me know that the idea is in fact ridiculous and not imperative, do not pursue. Thanks to her, and our staff, we are poised to have the best fall and winter we have ever had in our 13 years of coffee, bar, and music business.

All in all I feel like I am not alone in recognizing 2023 as the most challenging year of the pandemic era. I had a hunch, as did others, it might go down like this.

2020- "we're all in this together." 2021- "Keep going, stay strong, support each other, things are getting better." 2022- "Open up already!", "Stay Closed its not safe!",  Wear a mask!", "Don't wear a mask!", "Be a part of the solution!", "Don't take my freedoms!" 2023- Welp, back to work. Good luck. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get out there. HELP!

That's All Folks. 

I love this business, I love this town, I love my family, friends, and staff. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I know this. Even in the darkest times having good people around you to support you, let you support them, lean on you, let you lean on them is just the light you need to pull you through. We will never get rich doing this type of business, and I knew that going in, but it would be nice to carve a living out of it. That is, out of making people happy, supporting a local creative economy, treating people fairly and not using their skills and talents for personal gain but rather allowing them room to grow and shine, and mostly just building a place for sharing an experience with your fellow humans that makes life all that much more worth living. We get to do that here. Every. Single. Day. How lucky are we? Whether it's that first sip of fresh coffee in the quiet morning when the world is waking up, the conversation over lunch with a friend in the middle of a busy day, or the excitement, passion, and emotion felt while watching an artist masterfully share their craft with an audience made up of people that will likely never be in the same room at the same time sharing the same gift ever again in this one time journey through mortal existence. Life is short, but life is good. Hang in there.

Happy New Year. May 2024 bring you peace, prosperity, and love.


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