Summit Coffee Co., a specialty coffeeshop in Davidson has been in business for 19 years. In 2003, Tim Helfrich bought the café, and in 2011, when he needed help to grow it, he asked his younger brother, Brian, to handle the operations and marketing portion of the business.

In 2015, Brian, 32, became the majority owner of Summit Coffee, when Tim decided he wanted to pursue his dream to become a teacher.

Summit Coffee’s locations in Davidson — Basecamp on Main Street and the Outpost on the Davidson College campus — serve expresso drinks, seasonal signature beverages and coffee cocktails ($2-$5). Summit Coffee has an in-house bakery that provides scones, muffins, turnovers, cakes and tarts ($2-$5).

Their new Asheville location on the French Broad River opens this month, and their Huntersville shop will open in October.

Their roasting facility in Cornelius was built in 2015 when Helfrich realized that it made sense for the business to buy their own beans and roast them.

“We wanted to be intentional about how we source everything,” said Brian Helfrich.

Brian Helfrich purchases beans from all over the world including Guatemala, Columbia, Peru, Ethiopia, Kenya and islands in Indonesia.

“Anywhere coffee is grown well, we can source it,” he said.

Brian Helfrich answered questions for CharlotteFive’s small business series:

How do you start your day?

“I start my day by running. I have two small children, a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old. I like to get out and get home before they wake up so I can spend the first hour or two of my morning with them.

“I get up at 4:30 and run for an hour or an hour and a half and then bring coffee home to my wife and then we hang out with our kids, eat breakfast and drink coffee.”

Brian Helfrich

What has prepared you to become an entrepreneur?

“I was one of seven. My dad was a successful business person and my mom was a terrific stay-at-home mom. I am the sixth of seven, and I watched so many of my siblings and my parents do different things and do them all so well. There was never a certain path, predetermined thing that I was supposed to do. I was encouraged by my parents to follow my heart and think outside the box.

“As a kid, that meant doing what you want on the playground, but as an adult that’s how you want to spend your days working.”


What obstacles have you had to overcome?

“We’ve grown so much in the last four years. We’ve gone from eight employees to, as of October, we’ll have 62 employees. The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is how to adapt to the new company.

“Trying to figure out what my core values are and what I’m not willing to compromise on versus what other things I need to do to change to run the company that it is, rather than the company that it was.”

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about starting their own business?

“Be prepared for the unexpected. It is full of wonderful moments, but it’s full of really frustrating moments and big challenges and you have to constantly think on your feet and adapt to certain circumstances.”

How do you prevent burnout?

“I think it has a little to do with my personality – being a goer. I think it has to do with being excited about what you do every day. I’m stressed and I’m tired, but I have never had a day in the six years I’ve been running this business where I wasn’t excited to go to work.”


Basecamp, 128 South Main Street, Davidson
Hours: 6.a.m-10p.m. Monday–Wednesday; 6.a.m-11p.m. Thursday-Friday; 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Outpost, 120 Patterson Court Circle, Davidson
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Photos: Courtesy of Summit Coffee

Family history and my own fascination with people and their motivations prompted me to begin this series about Charlotte’s small business owners. Industry, situation and questions will vary. Have a suggestion for a small business owner or entrepreneur to interview? Email it to with the subject line “Small Business Series.”

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