WHAT IS THE MAD PRIEST?
Our endeavor is to continue in the tradition of the early coffee houses of the Ottoman Empire that were places of socializing, intellectual discourse, and political debate (sparked by good beverages, of course). The Mad Priest will be a space that is inclusive of everyone to experience the timeless rituals of communion, revelry, and friendship. We welcome you to journey with us through the mixed bag of life that makes us human, and celebrate the array of color and culture that is our world.
So, a little bit coffee shop, a little bit cafe, a little bit bar? Well, sort of. Co-owned by Michael Rice (of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters) and Matt Sears (of Haskel Sears Design), The Mad Priest will be equal parts specialty coffee shop and craft cocktail bar, with light food options available day and night. But there’s so much more to it!
I // COFFEE & COCKTAILS
On the coffee side of things, Mad Priest Coffee Roasters (our sister company) sources some amazing coffees through top-notch importers that are forerunners for helping the specialty industry grow in new areas. And we roast those unique coffees to bring out the best characteristics of each bean. Most recently, Food & Wine named Mad Priest “runner up in TN” in their “Best Coffee in Every State”! With our Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) certifications and years of experience in the industry, we’re confident that our stellar team will provide the best coffee in Chattanooga.
And as far as cocktails go, we will have a list of original cocktails created in-house, alongside hundreds of classics. Each one will be made with the freshest juices, in house-syrups and the best bitters available, finished off with incredible presentation. For those who want a top shelf spirit, our extensive list will give you plenty to choose from! And if you’re not a cocktail person, don’t worry! We will also have a strong beer menu (imported and local), a small, curated wine list, and some fun seasonal non-alcoholic drinks, too.
II // THE SPACE
Our co-owner, Matt Sears, is designing and building The Mad Priest space. He is hands down a genius of design and craftsmanship (take a look at Flying Squirrel, Chattanooga Whiskey, and Oddstory Brewing Co. for example), so this space is going to be epic! Just picture 16th century European woodwork meets Ottoman Empire tile work. We will be able to seat 50 inside and 20 outside on our back patio (which is attached to the new Seventh Street Alley development project, “Passageways 2.0”). And whether you choose to sit at the bar, a table or booth, there will plenty of beauty and character surrounding you that provides an experience you’ll want to come back to. We even have the incredible old back bar from the infamous Yesterday’s Bar to grace our space!
III // THE MAD PRIEST CONCEPT
The original inspiration for the Mad Priest brand comes from incredible novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Edmond Dantès was ready to give up and die in prison, but just then the "Mad Priest" came on the scene and gave him a reason to hope again, along with the practical skills he needed to win at life. So the Mad Priest is a fictional character that embodies the fight for justice, freedom, and opportunity. And as a company, we are striving to do just that. But instead of wrongly-accused fictional Frenchmen, we seek to champion real-life people displaced by war, disaster, and tragedy abroad, and those displaced locally, too.
Michael and Cherita Rice started Mad Priest Coffee Roasters in 2015 as a social enterprise + small-batch specialty coffee roasting company with the mission to “Craft excellent coffee. Educate the curious. Champion the displaced.” They wanted to run a sustainable business with a triple bottom line that included social and environmental goals alongside the economic one. Social justice, community, equity, and inclusion were all part of the vision from the beginning.
And we are attempting to take the social side of the Mad Priest brand to a whole new level with The Mad Priest // Coffee & Cocktails. We'll continue to work with the local immigrant and refugee communities. We will be the first cafe in Chattanooga to be nearly zero waste and 100% compostable, and we’ll also be green-light certified. We will always strive to not only consider the good of our customers, but most of all, the good of our employees.
WHO ARE THE FOLKS BEHIND THE MAD PRIEST?
Co-owner Matt Sears is also the owner of Haskel Sears Design & Construction. His journey in building design and construction started more than two decades ago with handcrafted furniture constructed around the nature and possibilities of wood. And now he’s built an incredible company that’s made some of the most beautiful spaces in Chattanooga a reality, like Flying Squirrel, Chattanooga Whiskey, Oddstory Brewing Company, and many more! He is all about sustainability, both in the physical spaces he creates, and making sure his employees are taken care of.
Michael Rice, co-owner and operator, worked in the coffee industry abroad for a few years, then settled in Chattanooga with his family where he was the manager at one of the first specialty coffee shops in town. He and his wife, Cherita, started Mad Priest Coffee Roasters two years ago and it’s now a successful wholesale roasting company with numerous accounts in and around the city. Michael’s credentials include roasting and green buying certifications from the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), Bar Smarts certification, and his CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) is in progress. And he’s traveled to ten cities across the country like New Orleans, Seattle, and Austin this year doing market research at the nation’s top cocktail bars.
A 24-year-veteran of the wine and spirits business, Jen Gregory is proud to continue to be involved in the growth of professionalism of this industry. She owns her own wine and spirits consulting business, is the Chattanooga Chapter President of the United States Bartenders' Guild, and is an advocate and activist not only in the bar community but in local politics. She is excited to be working with Mad Priest Coffee & Cocktails to continue that work in helping the underserved in Chattanooga's community.
Luke Pigott is the Head Roaster & Director of Wholesale of Mad Priest Coffee Roasters and he will be roasting all the incredible coffee that you’ll get to enjoy at The Mad Priest. Before moving to Chattanooga a year ago to work for Mad Priest, he roasted for Gryphon Cafe and Backyard Beans in Philadelphia for five years. And his coffees have been praised in the Philadelphia Inquirer (by renowned food critic Craig Laban), brewed carefully in third wave cafes and Michelin Star-winning restaurants, and used by one of the top ten breweries in the world in some of their coveted beers. Most recently, he was a judge for the 2018 US Roaster Championship at the SCA Expo in Seattle.
And as for the rest of our amazing Mad Priest Team pictured above, there’s Cherita Rice (Marketing, Admin, Design & Branding),Tarig Idris (Roastery Production Manager), Mark Stahlwood (Resident Coffee Guru), and our Advisory Board Members, Lauri Moyle, Cameron Williams, Lisa Pinckney, and Mike Robinson. (Also pictured are Michael & Cherita’s little girls, who work hard keeping us all smiling!)
We’re running this Kickstarter because ultimately, we wanted to include you, our current patrons and friends (and future ones!) in what we are doing. We’ve come a long way from the early days when Michael was roasting coffee in his basement, with a big vision for the future. And we see so much more ahead, but we can’t do it without you!
Sure, we are excited about sharing the best coffee and cocktails with you. But The Mad Priest and this Kickstarter are not merely about us or our brand; it’s about cultivating the good of Chattanooga as a whole. And we invite each of you to be a part of what we are trying to create. We believe that this space will aid in the growth of our beautiful city--through inclusivity, diversity, and equal opportunity for all.
Risks and challenges
There aren’t a lot of places that execute both coffee and cocktails well, so we are trying out a new concept in a way with The Mad Priest. And with any new venture, there are always risks and unknowns to a certain extent. How will folks respond to the combination concept? How will it all work with such long hours and staffing? How can we maintain our high standards for coffee, cocktails, and food?
And then with the social side of our business, it is a matter of constantly re-evaluating where we are at and where we want to be. Are we meeting our social goals? Are we maintaining a diverse group of employees (whether that be refugees/immigrants or folks from Chattanooga), truly taking care of them and helping them progress towards their goals?
But we have such an amazing team of folks making this thing a reality, who have so much experience in the industry. So we are confident that we have the tools we need to quickly work through any challenges that may arise!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (35 days)