Ryan Cobbins needs a break.
On Sunday, the owner of Coffee at the Point temporarily closed the shop at 710 E. 26th Ave. in Five Points, which he founded in 2010. Cobbins told BusinessDen he plans to reopen Sept. 13 — but that he’s also open to being bought out of the business.
Cobbins said he is pausing operations due to a staffing shortage and rising supply costs, and because business has been slow lately.
“I needed to stop the bleeding and reset,” Cobbins said. “Plus the fact that everything is just so taxing. Expenses are going through the roof, and it’s hard to increase prices on customers who are also hurting. But it’s necessary because vendors are increasing prices. The whole ecosystem is a quiet storm.”
Cobbins’ challenges also include a stack of legal bills stemming from a lawsuit filed earlier this year by local investment firm The Flyfisher Group, which is led by CEO Matthew Burkett.
“I’m working hard because I want more for my girls,” said Cobbins, who has two daughters. “I put so much energy into getting this place and thought a deal with Matthew would be a great opportunity, but it just turned out to be a bust.”
In 2020, The Flyfisher Group announced it was launching a food and beverage group called Pure Hospitality, which included MPB, which closed in June. Cobbins was named as one of three individuals running the new group.
Pure Hospitality invested in Coffee at the Point. According to Cobbins, Burkett paid $28,000 for a 40 percent stake in the coffee shop, and agreed to pay Cobbins $75,000 a year for the Pure Hospitality role.
The agreement also called for at least $200,000 to be spent remodeling the coffee shop, according to Cobbins, who said it was his understanding that Flyfisher would pay for it. But Cobbins said he later ended up paying for an $8,000 quote for a new speaker system that Burkett approved, the first of many red flags for him.
Shortly after, he and Burkett decided to dissolve the partnership. But in March, Burkett filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court against Cobbins, claiming he had breached their original agreement. The lawsuit is ongoing and has a trial date set for February 2023, according to court documents.
Cobbins said he reached out to Burkett last week to see what could end the litigation. He said Burkett wanted their attorneys to sit down to discuss a possible deal in which Flyfisher would buy Cobbins out of the business. Burkett also wanted to hire a third-party consultant to determine the value of the business, Cobbins said.
“I told him last Monday that the shop can’t afford to fund attorneys for the sake of it or a business consultant,” Cobbins said on Monday. “I said, ‘Just make me an offer and get back to me by Friday,’ but I haven’t heard back from him yet.”
Burkett did not respond to a request for comment from BusinessDen on Monday.
Cobbins said he’s open to selling his stake in the business.
“If he offers to buy my shares, I think there will be some consideration,” Cobbins said. “I’m exhausted from going back and forth with a guy that I once idolized. I looked up to him so much to the point where he drank San Pellegrino water, and I started buying cases of it for my own house.”
In addition to Coffee at the Point, Burkett has sued a handful of other businesses along Welton Street in Five Points. Multiple business owners who lease space from Flyfisher told BusinessDen in April that Burkett was burdening them with bogus charges and attempting to wrest control of their operations. Burkett at the time described his lawsuits as a last resort and standard fare when contract terms are broken.
The Flyfisher tenants also claimed Burkett’s behavior had changed recently, and attributed it to a falling out between Burkett and local billionaire Robert Smith, who has done business with Flyfisher in the past. A representative of Smith said in April that the billionaire’s dealings with Flyfisher and Burkett “have decreased in recent years.”
If Cobbins doesn’t sell his stake in Coffee at the Point, he plans to use this pause to make some improvements.
He said he wants to update the shop’s furniture, and find a general manager to run day-to-day operations. At the same time, however, he said that he also needs to repay his vendor debts and raise enough money for payroll. Cobbins said he can’t afford to invest his own personal money into the business and is looking for alternative sources of funding, since Burkett is off the table.
“The situation with Matthew is an anomaly,” Cobbins said. “It hasn’t tainted my idea of bringing on an investor.”