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Friday, May 24, 2019

Living Room Southampton Closes, Ursa Minor to Open in Its Place

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 3:52 PM

click to enlarge Living Room has closed its shared space with Craft Beer Cellar in Southampton. - SARAH FENSKE
  • SARAH FENSKE
  • Living Room has closed its shared space with Craft Beer Cellar in Southampton.

A little less than a year ago, Nate Larson and his sister Hannah opened the Living Room Southampton (5760 Chippewa Street, 314-899-0173), a shared space with Craft Beer Cellar and a second outpost of their wildly popular Maplewood coffee shop.

But from day one, Larson says, it was clear their concept was off.



"I had thought, 'We're a coffee shop/cafe,' and we could open a coffee shop/cafe with limited food and be cool, " Larson recalls. "But from the very first minute, the customers were like, 'Where's the sandwiches, where's the quiche?' People were coming in with kids, ready to eat. It was a total miscalculation."

In the last few weeks, Living Room closed its doors for good. And a new coffee shop, Ursa Minor, is now preparing to take its place.

But as Larson tells it, wasn't as simple as a business failing and closing its doors to cut its losses. Instead, as much as the Living Room Southampton's demise is painful for Larson and his sister, the story's ending is actually a happy one.

Larson says that he and Hannah spent nearly their entire run on at the Chippewa location trying to figure a way around the space's limitations (read: lack of kitchen). But ultimately, they found themselves stretched too thin to get the bandwidth to make it all work.

"Eight months of obsessing about 'how are we going to do food' was time not spent marketing, or creating a new identity for it," Larson says. And the wheel-spinning threatened to undermine the success of the Maplewood original, which Larson says has only continued to see growth.

The solution came seemingly out of nowhere: The Larsons' employee, Ben Hoelzer, offered to buy the business. A coffee guru who also has an expertise in tea, Hoelzer has the added benefit of having been on the ground at the location and knowing exactly what the neighborhood is looking for. (Hoelzer did not return a call seeking comment this morning.)

The sale went through a few months ago, Larson says, but it was only recently that Hoelzer was ready to move on his new concept. The new owner closed the Living Room earlier this month, and is now preparing to open soon as Ursa Minor. The new signage just went up in front of the space, and Craft Beer Cellar is ready to welcome its new daytime counterpart.

Larson is philosophical about the end of the Living Room's south city run. "Every business has to take a chance," he says. "You don't learn everything through success. It was a massive opportunity. And none of us harbor any feelings of, 'What if that hadn't happened?'"

He adds, "Ben stepped in at the perfect moment."

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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