When small or family-owned businesses cease operations, the closure often goes unpublicized and unnoticed. This was not the case for local coffee enthusiasts who frequented The Fairview Coffee and Grub, located at 3428 N. St. Mary’s St., which closed its doors a few days before Christmas.
Owners John Sanchez, 35, and his wife Whitney Collins-Sanchez, 28, announced their “incredibly difficult decision” via The Fairview’s social media accounts last week. In an emotional message to their customers, the couple said the shop was closing because a family health emergency required them to move back to Houston.
“The Fairview has always been a Mom & Pop operation at its heart and we have poured our blood, sweat, and tears into this little shop for the past two years, striving to serve our community through creating something we hope was as special to you as it was to us,” the post read.
Friends and patrons showered the couple with love and support, Collins-Sanchez said, but also wondered about the future of the shop.
Sanchez had been a partner in a local coffee shop in Houston when he met his future wife, then a yoga teacher. A job with Nordstrom’s coffee bar program brought the couple to San Antonio in August 2013, just three months before their son Jonas was born. Sanchez went on to work for Local Coffee while Collins-Sanchez taught Forrest yoga at Southtown Yoga Loft. Driven by their desire to contribute to the “tiny shop movement,” the couple began crafting plans to open their own business in late 2014.
The result was a cozy, retro-styled coffee shop that opened its doors in August 2015 and served a signature blend – roasted by Sanchez in the space next door – house-made chai and horchata, flaky biscuits with a variety of toppings, and griddled sourdough toasts piled high with creative flavor combinations.
“John has been in the coffee business for more than 10 years,” Collins-Sanchez said. “He’s worked in shops in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. We both just really love to cook, so we started collaborating on a lot of stuff. John came up with a lot of great recipes, and we had a lot of employees who came up with recipes as well.
“I did all the bread. I was the only one who ever baked the bread for the shop.”
Many young professionals aspire to become entrepreneurs. What they often forget is that when you own a small business you also own all the jobs – from construction worker to customer service representative to human resource manager. “You can’t clock out as an owner,” Collins-Sanchez said.
“We worked really long hours and literally built the shop with our bare hands, from the sheetrock up … on top of trying to keep up with the business side. We also didn’t have child care for the first year, so John and I would split our time between Jonas and the shop. It was crazy. But it was fun, too.”
Their now 3-year-old son Jonas became an integral part of the family business as the frequent subject of The Fairview’s thoughtfully curated social media presence.
“It was very much ours,” Collins-Sanchez said. “That’s why it was so hard to finally make that decision to close the doors.”
The couple faced the difficult choice in late October when Sanchez’s mother suffered a ruptured aneurysm, which caused a stroke. She then fell into a coma, from which she has yet to awake.
“The second day John and I were sitting at the hospital, we turned to each other and said, ‘So, we’re selling, right? We have to move home,’” Collins-Sanchez said.
The need to be with family in a time of hardship outweighed every other consideration – something The Fairview’s clientele not only understood, but also supported. Countless people with whom the two had developed relationships during the Fairview’s tenure reached out to offer help, support, and prayer.
“As much as we enjoyed what we were doing and building, family comes first,” Collins-Sanchez said.
“People have asked if we are selling, which we are. Whoever buys the shop can rebrand it and turn it into something else, or they could buy the brand if they wanted to. We’ve had a lot of people ask about equipment, but we’re trying not to piece it. We want to keep it all together.”
Anyone who ever tasted one of the Fairview’s biscuits, muffins, or the signature “El Chingon” – house-made horchata blended with espresso over flaked ice – could sense the care that went into its preparation.
The couple strategically selected vendors in an effort to support small, local businesses and make “as much as possible of what is served here … in house.” Everything from milk to honey came from Texas producers and growers. Even the art on the walls came solely from local artists.
Next week, the Sanchez family will move back to Houston, where Collins-Sanchez will manage and teach at her old yoga studio and her husband will focus on wholesale roasting and coffee catering. Plans for another coffee shop aren’t currently in the works.
There are many places in this city that offer quality coffee and a good breakfast. The Fairview’s patrons will miss more than just the coffee and grub; they will miss the people who built the space around it with so much thought and dedication.
“We are so grateful for the way we were received here (in San Antonio),” Collins-Sanchez said. “We’re really sad, but maybe there is a silver lining in all this. I feel like what we did was special and it would be really cool if someone were to make it into something even better or let our legacy live on.”