Big coffee news: Not Just Coffee, Undercurrent teaming up for roastery and 4 cafés

The big picture: NJC and Undercurrent are combining their expertise and success here in Charlotte to build a coffee brand that can be scaled beyond the city.

“To grow, you need a bigger team,” Miracle Yoder, co-owner of NJC, tells me.

They’ll start with a flagship roastery and café at 4500 Old Pineville Road in lower South End as well as one café in Oakhurst at 1630 Oakhurst Commons Drive, one at the new Bank of America tower in Uptown, and another to come in Uptown. They’ll all open in the second half of 2021 and early 2022.

  • Beyond the name and the coffee beans, the new cafés’ atmosphere will be “leveled up” from the hip Brooklyn-coffee-shop feel at existing NJC and Undercurrent locations.
  • The two Undercurrent locations and six NJC locations will remain the same except they’ll now serve Night Swim coffee versus Counter Culture at NJC and Onyx at Undercurrent.

Background: NJC’s Miracle and James Yoder and Undercurrent’s Todd and Erin Huber have been friends for years and put this plan into motion before the pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, both couples took a step back to focus on keeping their respective businesses afloat through months of closures. “There were definitely days when we were like ‘this is it, we’re folding it,’” James says.

As their shops begun to open back up, the Hubers and Yoders turned their attention back to the roastery, secured leases and began blind coffee testing to narrow in on the menu.

The name: Landing on the new brand name of Night Swim was one of the hardest part of the process, James tells me, because both couples and owners love their years-old legacy brands. They eventually landed on Night Swim because they wanted something that felt nostalgic, Todd says, and creates a sense of adventure and fun.

Go deeper: The coffee roasting market tends to be less volatile than the retail business because roasters can sell direct-to-consumer online and generate more consistent revenue from grocery stores.

  • In general, shops that roasted their coffee in-house fared better during the pandemic.

What’s next: Once the four Night Swim cafés open by this time next year, the Yoders and Hubers will own a total of 12 coffee shops in Charlotte. Despite that, they tell me the market is still “undersaturated.”

“The greater Charlotte market could even use more,” Todd says.