Donated photo. While it is very true that people appreciate good coffee, they also appreciate the sense of community that a small town coffee shop can create. Both can be found in Canton at Papertown Coffee. Pictured are owners Russ Grimmett and Liz Rhine.

When Russ Grimmett and Liz Rhine decided to act on their dream of opening an independent craft coffee shop, they had the experience, skillset and passion to make it happen. What they did not foresee were the challenges they would have to overcome.

The duo brought many years of knowledge as baristas to the table. In fact, the two met while working at a coffee shop in Chapel Hill. However, all they learned throughout the years has not only just been about coffee.

While it is very true that people appreciate good coffee, they also appreciate the sense of community that a small town coffee shop can create.

Selecting Canton as the location for their venture, it was important to the pair to choose a town that didn’t have an established coffee shop. Equally important was a vibrant community and a location that they could also call home.

While being a first mover was at the forefront of their business planning, it didn’t come without risk. It was at this point that the Canton town manager referred Russ and Liz to the Haywood Community College Small Business Center.

“We knew what we wanted to do but we didn’t know where to start,” Rhine says.

Working with Gould, the future owners of Papertown Coffee worked on the concept from feasibility to financial projections, business planning to capital development.

Over the course of two years, the team navigated the trek to financing and lengthy building renovations, prior to launching their business.

“The building is old,” Grimmett explains. “And we live upstairs above the coffee shop. This created challenges. We talked to about 15 lenders, even nontraditional lenders.”

Grimmett and Rhine fully embraced a growing movement in entrepreneurship toward multiuse buildings, creating a shared small business/residential opportunity.  

It was important for the couple to totally immerse themselves into the town and this new venture. Living upstairs was not only a matter of convenience, but it was also a way to engrain themselves into the fabric of Canton, to truly become part of the community.

Persistence and community remained core to their business concept, and the couple officially opened the doors to Papertown Coffee in June 2019.

 “The reception we received is far more than we ever thought,” Liz says. “There are days we have doubled and tripled in volume.”

Further embodying a sense of comraderie, Papertown Coffee works with other small businesses to offer locally made pastries, chocolate and artisan sodas. The furniture is even crafted from a woodworker a few doors down the street. As their business continues to grow, it will only help bring increased traffic to other stores downtown.

Canton Mayor, Zeb Smathers couldn’t have said it better, "Despite challenges and delays, Papertown Coffee and the entrepreneurial tenacity of both Liz and Russ exemplifies the ‘Canton Comeback.’  This family business had the opportunity to open in many other places, but they chose us because of our desire to breathe life back into our mill town. By buying and renovating a building, which serves as their business and home, they are fully invested in playing a major role in Canton's next chapter. In turn, Haywood County has responded with lines out the door. Once inside, our citizens are greeted with not just delicious coffee, but big smiles from Papertown's newest purveyors; a wonderful combination for the future of our downtown.”

“Some days we ask ourselves, ‘is this a dream,’” Rhine acknowledges. “People told us we were crazy but we trusted our instincts. We thought it would work and we decided we were going to do it no matter what.”

Visit SBC.Haywood.edu or call 828.627.4512 for additional information or to register today. Thinking about starting a business in Haywood County or growing an existing business? Take advantage of the programs, services, and resources provided by the Small Business Center. The NC Community College’s Small Business Center Network facilitates an economic impact in 90 percent of all NC counties each year and ranks number one in the U.S. for total business seminars and participants. In addition, the network helps start an average of over 700 businesses every year and works to create and retain 3,800 jobs annually for North Carolina. Visit ncsbc.net for more information.