Jeff Kramarczyk is closing the doors of Crate Coffee this week but will still be in business. Photo by Mason Callejas

By Fran Lyons

While many home-based businesses in Maricopa are trying to build their way into a storefront, others are taking the opposite route.

Crate Coffee Market, the highest-rated coffee shop in Maricopa according to Yelp reviewers, had a retail space for five years on Hathaway Avenue. But owner Jeff Kramarczyk has opted to close the doors Aug. 26.

“The virtual marketplace has presented an opportunity to expand more globally while still meeting and developing our goals,” he said.

In a press release announcing the closing, Kramarczyk said Crate had fallen short in one of five goals: “Build a wholly unique, economically viable, retail business on word of mouth only.”

The primary reason for leaving the storefront is to focus attention, time and effort on the virtual side of the business.

“For many customers, locally and across the U.S., Crate Coffee has only ever been a virtual market,” Kramarczyk said. “Our business began in 2013 with 60-70 percent focus on the distribution side and 30-40 percent on the retail storefront side.”

Photo by Mason Callejas

The expanded business plan does not lessen the number of hours he works. “I don’t consider hours to be relevant in the virtual market,” he said. “It’s 24/7.”

The biggest challenge, he said, “is to continue the relationship aspect with people and the personal experience they had in the store and translate it into the virtual experience. We want to engage people and enable them to interact socially online.”

Despite closing the storefront, his business plan, he said, remains the same.

Echoing that are the co-owners of CrossFit Stand & Battle, which also left its storefront space with its high overhead to literally go home in what was termed a restructuring.

Natalie Richardson and Nate Maxcy of CrossFit Stand & Battle opted to move into garage gyms. Submitted photo

“Bringing it home has its benefits,” said Natalie Richardson, co-owner and director of operations. Her garage in The Villages was converted into a CrossFit gym in July.

The change allows the team to provide the classes and hours to meet the needs of their schedules as well as the clients they coach, she said.

Their business is an affiliate of CrossFit, Inc., an internationally known elite fitness regime designed to define fitness in a measurable way. The workout goal is fitness and health through functional movement and stability.

The business plan, structured on the CrossFit model, is unchanged. It’s just the location that is different.

“Our members are our community,” said co-owner Nate Maxcy, director of coaching. “We truly believe that the relationships we develop and the care and consideration of each other is how we motivate and support each other. We work together as a group.”

Formerly CrossFit 347, Stand & Battle operated out of Suite B102 at 21576 N. John Wayne Parkway. Richardson began her fitness career in pre-natal and post-natal fitness for moms with Stroller Strides. Maxcy has trained as an athlete with CrossFit for years and is also a captain with the Maricopa Fire Department.

When asked why they left the brick-and-mortar store, Maxcy and Richardson said it fit their lifestyle and budget, and the garage gym concept aligned with their philosophy of hands-on instruction. Making the decision to take the business home came as they were approaching a deadline for a new lease agreement. They were no longer willing to put their families at financial risk.

One challenge of moving from a storefront to a virtual or home-based site is convincing customers to come along, too.

Maxcy told clients he would understand if some of them were not comfortable with a garage-gym format while he knew others were introduced to CrossFit in a home gym.

Crate Coffee’s clientele was also disappointed to lose their community spot.

“Many folks are sad that our familiar location will no longer be available,” said Kramarczyk, who, though excited about the new business platform, described his own feelings as mixed. “Thank you to everyone that has crossed Crate Coffee’s threshold. My hope is that we take our shared experiences with us for the rest of our lives and look back on them fondly.”

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