This PGF story was written by Laura Bonds.
Photography by Justin Fox Burks
Coffee-brewing is a special craft, and Hayes and Amy McPherson treat it and their customers with care. Hayes and Amy own Comeback Coffee, a coffee shop in the Pinch District on North Main. The shotgun-style building invites visitors in with its large windows and a bar at the front. As you walk back to the wall of 1895 original brick and out into the courtyard, you’re transported to a tranquil oasis. The coffee shop helped kick start a revitalization in the neighborhood, which exemplifies its owners’ commitment to community. But the McPhersons’ dedication to others doesn’t stop there; they constantly evaluate how their decisions will impact others, and their environmental practices position them as leaders in the coffee, restaurant, and small business spaces in Memphis.
Both coffee and Memphis hold special places in the McPhersons’ hearts. Born and raised in Memphis, Hayes and Amy realize the culture and people of Memphis are unique and proud. Hayes worked at a coffee shop in college and fell in love with the industry. Amy was exploring graphic design at the time, and she became enamored of the front of house elements and spent a lot of time in the coffee shop where Hayes worked. They both love what coffee shops represent and the support they can provide a community. They knew they wanted to return to Memphis after school and when the opportunity arose for them to tackle this new adventure, it was a no-brainer to open Comeback Coffee and “create a space that is for Memphis and give back to the city that raised us,” Hayes explained.
Hayes and Amy believe Memphis is on the cusp of executing environmentally-conscious programs and practices, but the city needs support from the local infrastructure and buy-in from other city and business leaders. Working with Project Green Fork is one of the ways they seek to pull the city with them and work to bring others along on their sustainable journey. “Project Green Fork is a mainstay in Memphis,” said Hayes, “especially leading the way over sustainable practices in the restaurant industry.” He wants to educate people that running a sustainable business isn’t hard, “it’s almost easier in ways.” The education continues with their customers as Hayes and Amy use interactions with patrons to show consumers how sustainable efforts can be done in hopes they’ll be inspired to replicate them on their own.
As a coffee shop, one of Comeback Coffee’s biggest areas of waste is disposable to-go cups and containers, but they are proud their trash is limited to one bag a day. The shop works with Project Green Fork to identify the best cups and food containers for customers to take with them. To minimize the waste that comes from taking drinks and food out of the shop, Amy would like to allow customers to bring their own mugs in the future.
Because they go through so much coffee, hundreds of pounds of grounds are composted each month. “We compost as much as we can,” Hayes remarked, with the vast majority of their composting efforts coming from the coffee grounds. In the kitchen, scraps are composted and ingredients get repurposed, pickled, or fermented; what was the main ingredient of a menu item may show up again as a garnish in another. All of this is an effort to lead the way as a sustainable and community-driven business.
A standout item on the menu is the coffee soda, which the shop recently began canning and distributing regionally. During the canning process, they use environmentally safe chemicals to clean the equipment. They reduce water in this process whenever they can, and their delicious coffee relies on the fresh Memphis aquifer to provide some of the cleanest and tastiest water in the country as a base for their coffee. On the consumer end, Comeback Coffee’s team encourages consumers to recycle the cans once they are empty, and Hayes and Amy hope to do more recycling in the future with the help of Project Green Fork.
The McPhersons wanted to create a community space, a place where customers could celebrate Memphis’ uniqueness. “Sustainable practices have always been natural for us,” the couple shared, and they plan to keep expanding their environmentally conscious business practices as they honor their city. They exude an undeniable energy, and because of their mindfulness, they’ve been able to achieve their goals and lead the way for others in the coffee and restaurant industries to improve their environmental efforts.