Written and Photographed by Grace Baker
The phrase “Stay a While” jumps out in fluorescent white letters whenever a customer walks into 358 Main St., now known as Comeback Coffee. And that phrase that hangs on the wall in the shop couldn’t describe the place, or its mission, more perfectly.
Roughly half a decade ago, Hayes and Amy McPherson were driving down Main Street, dreaming lofty dreams of opening their own business. The building with the numbers 358 caught their eyes, but their lack of funds made them go back to the drawing board.
Hayes and Amy are native Memphians and high school sweethearts. The pair moved to Arkansas to attend University in Arkansas, where they respectively earned their bachelors degrees in public relations and graphic design. During that time the two married and started pursuing internships in their fields. Both yearned to not work for a corporate company and, instead, be their own bosses.
“We weren’t happy, we just knew that that wasn’t the route we were supposed to go,” Hayes recalls.
With a craving for more than office jobs, Hayes and Amy started brainstorming when they returned to Memphis. The couple went to Amy’s dad with these dreams, and her father handed them a card telling them to check this one property out. He was looking to invest in some properties at the time.
They were handed a business card, and the address was one of fate: 358 Main St. This was the reassurance the couple needed to move forward.
Hayes had fallen in love with the coffee business. While working in the industry through college he became captivated with the science and the product of coffee itself, Amy was fascinated with how a coffee shop could positively affect a community. With a shared vision, their dreams began to take root.
Her father invested in the property and renovations began. Amy and Hayes were committed to their dream, and even lived on the floor above the shop for two years during construction From a dark and dingy building with cobwebs, they transformed it into a haven where people want to spend hours at.
In fact, many have stepped into the place and wondered if they stepped into a storefront in Los Angeles, California, but Memphis is in a stage of business owners caring more about the aesthetic they’re putting out and pushing the limits on their spaces, Hayes says. Their unique aesthetic is perfect for Instagram bloggers with textured white walls, well-lit backdrops and lush leafy accents.
But, how did Hayes and Amy make Comeback Coffee stand out from its competitors? After all, Memphis is in the middle of a coffee shop takeover, with a new one seeming to spring up every few months or so.
“Our goal isn’t necessarily to make the best coffee,” Hayes explains, “which might sound kind of counterproductive or backwards. We take pride in the coffee we make. I think we make some of the best coffee in Memphis for sure, but our goal for Comeback Coffee is to create a full experience.”
Hayes and Amy wanted to keep their menu simple, but they wanted to do it well. One item on their menu that you won’t find many other places is their coffee soda. Using a secret mixture of strawberry, lime and black coffee, they make about five gallons every other day, and they never fail to sell out of it.
“It is weird, and it’s different and it doesn’t quite make sense, but I think it’s one of the best drinks I’ve ever had,” Hayes explains.
But his favorite drink is their iced oat milk latte, while his wife Amy loves their not-too-sweet vanilla latte.
While Hayes is fascinated with the culinary and beverage side of their operation, Amy treasures the human interactions.
“For me, I have so enjoyed watching the same person come in and slowly opening up,” she says. “To me, that’s been the most rewarding part, people finding their community here.”
Both agree that walking with people through their lives is one of the best parts of their job, and it helps them maintain their motivation to come to work every day. With a staff of only ten people including themselves, the couple runs bar shifts and has a very hands-on approach to their business.
“We literally walk with people through every stage of life,” Hayes explains. “Comforting food. Carefully brewed coffee. A welcoming attitude. The full experience. That’s what Comeback Coffee is.”
“We’re Memphians, and this is from Memphians, for Memphians,” he says.