Business & Economy
10:29 am
Sat August 30, 2014

Durham Business Owner Reaches Financial Goal, Still Closing Doors

Update 9/6/14:

Today is the last day of business for Durham's Intrepid Life Coffee and Spirits. Owner Matt Victoriano, who opened the shop earlier this year, was behind in rent after a lackluster summer. But area business owners and customers rallied behind Victoriano, a former Marine sniper. His Indiegogo campaign, and an auction, raised enough money to cover his immediate needs. Even so, the business will close, and open at a later date in a new location.

From Intrepid Life's Facebook page:

We regret to inform our very loyal and admirable patrons that we will be handing in the keys to the shop by September 7 and closing shop. Feel free to stop in and thank the amazing combat veterans who struggled after coming home only to find hope and pride in working at Intrepid. And do your best to help them find jobs so they won't be unemployed like they were when Intrepid gave them jobs.

Update 8/30/14:

We've been following the story of Durham coffee shop owner Matt Victoriano. Victoriano, an Iraq war veteran, opened his business earlier this year, but it was about to fail. He was behind in rent, and his landlords gave him until Sept. 7 to raise the money. Victoriano has been running an Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds. Ironically, he was running the campaign the same week he was being honored by the White House for his entrepreneurial efforts. Late Saturday Victoriano reached his goal.

(Read some of our earlier reports below.)

Update 8/27/14: Matt Victoriano was interviewed on NPR's Here & Now.

8/26/14:

Intrepid Life Coffee and Spirits owner and Marine veteran Matt Victoriano
Credit Carol Jackson

Durham coffee shop owner Matt Victoriano has received national recognition as an entrepreneur, but his business is about to go under.

Victoriano, a Marine Corps veteran, opened Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits earlier this year. Victoriano had struggled with post-traumatic stress after completing two tours as a sniper/team leader in Iraq. He dealt with those issues and, using his credit cards and confidence, he opened the coffee shop, hiring other veterans to help him run it.  Now, after a summer lull, he must raise $27,000 dollars to keep the doors open.

Victoriano received national attention for his efforts to start a business. Robin Young of NPR's Here & Now followed his journey as he tried to get financing for the venture. "I don’t know how many times people have asked, ‘Why don’t you use the V.A.’s small business loan?’ And I’m like, ‘They don’t have one,’" Victoriano told Young.

WUNC's Frank Stasio also had Victoriano on The State of Things to talk about the importance of entrepreneurship for veterans. At first, the business was doing well.

My landlords have given me until September 7 to pay past rent or close the business. -Matt Victoriano

"While business was expanding rapidly during the spring, it stagnated to such a degree during the summer that my landlords have given me until September 7 to pay past rent or close the business," Victoriano said.

Many friends and neighbors, patrons and local business owners were shocked that things had gotten so dire, and asked him to reach out to the community for help.

“Intrepid is the kind of place that makes Durham, Durham. A cool reuse of space…an atmosphere of quiet contemplation one minute, and bustling collaboration the next….a cause wrapped up in a place. We can’t afford to lose it,” said Casey Steinbacher, CEO of the Durham Chamber of Commerce.

"I am scheduled to close September 7," said Victoriano.  "I have an Indiegogo campaign to see if the community wants me to stick around.  If I raise the money I will have enough to pay back rent and make important changes."

In addition to paying past-due rent, new funding will help Victoriano do the following:

  • Refine the bar and lighting to attract an evening crowd.
  • Install a better road-side sign.
  • Hire a daily manager which will free Victoriano to organize and run larger events.

Ironically, the Indiegogo campaign is happening just as Victoriano is headed to Washington, DC to be honored for his work. The program, Champions of Change, recognizes those who are "doing extraordinary work across the country as leaders in the veteran and military families entrepreneurship community."

>> Find out more about the Indiegogo campaign. (Rewards include a shooting lesson from Victoriano, a former sniper, and ten years of free drinks.)

WUNC producer Carol Jackson spent the morning with Victoriano in March for this video profile: